Yugoslavia before Marshal Tito's break with Russia. In a cafe facing the harbour of Dubrovnik two Englishmen are sitting, watched by Zarko, the Chief of Police. Robert Hudson, an engineer, has known John Raikes for only three weeks--Raikes has been introduced to him as a technical consultant from the British Board of Trade, and the two of them are completing negotiations for the supply of certain machinery to the Yugoslav Government. Within a few hours Raikes is reported dead--"a tragic accident while bathing," says Zarko. Hudson, alone in an atmosphere of ill-concealed hostility, determines to fulfil a mission of which he himself has only a hazy knowledge.
Victor Canning was primarily a writer of thrillers, and wrote his many books under the pseudonyms Julian Forest and Alan Gould. Among his immediate contemporaries were Eric Ambler, Alistair Maclean and Hammond Innes. Canning was a prolific writer throughout his career, which began young: he had sold several short stories by the age of nineteen and his first novel, Mr Finchley Discovers His England (1934) was published when he was twenty-three. Canning also wrote for children: his The Runaways trilogy was adapted for US children's television. Canning's later thrillers were darker and more complex than his earlier work and received great critical acclaim. The Rainbird Pattern was awarded the CWA Silver Dagger in 1973 and nominated for an Edgar award in 1974. In 1976 The Rainbird Pattern was transformed by Alfred Hitchcock into the comic film Family Plot, which was to be Hitchcock's last film. Several of Canning's other novels including Golden Salamander (1949) were also made into films during Canning's lifetime.
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