My eleventh book in this month’s 12 in 12 Challenge is a thriller. Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household was written in the 1930s and has a lot in common with John Buchan’s The Thirty-nine Steps in that it is a novel about a man who is being pursued by enemies and doesn’t know who he can trust. Neither book includes women characters except peripherally, and class plays a large role in how the story works out.
Our hero is never named. He is writing a confession, in stages as the story unfolds. We only see events from his point of view and you can see that he is re-evaluating what is happening as he goes along. At first the confession is to keep him sane and later it is to record events for others. Our hero reveals himself to be pragmatic and capable but the truth of what has happened becomes apparent as he shares more with the reader.
The book starts in the middle of the action with our hero being thrown off a cliff in a country which is not named but which is almost certainly Germany to what is supposed to be his death after having been terribly tortured. He survives but is then pursued across Europe by officials of the state. As the story progresses we are told that he has been holidaying on the continent and shooting game as he goes. On a sudden whim he decides to stalk the leader of the nameless country, almost certainly Hitler, and to see if he can get into a position to shoot him. When he does this a chance event means that he is stopped and apprehended – the authorities do not believe that he was doing this for sport and had no intention of killing the statesman.
From that moment onwards our hero is in flight until he is cornered and has to escape. The tension doesn’t let up and although he has some contact with others he is usually on his own. The book is well paced and the history of our hero is slowly revealed. The author doesn’t dwell on details of the torture or on other gory happenings. The ending ties things up nicely and is very satisfying (although not very accurate for those of us who live after the events in this book were written).
All in all, this is a very satisfying thriller. It is not particularly complex but it is engaging – I very much enjoyed it.