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Assassins Have Starry Eyes    by Donald Hamilton order for
Assassins Have Starry Eyes
by Donald Hamilton
Order:  USA  Can
Fawcett, 1956 (1956)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I read and enjoyed all of Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm series (great escapist entertainment), my favorite of his thrillers has always been Assassins Have Starry Eyes, which pits a tough nuclear scientist 'egghead' against a bunch of amateur spies - starry-eyed idealists manipulated by a deceptive communist agent. The story is set near Albuquerque, New Mexico, an area of which Gregory says, 'I have come to like a country that gives elbow-room to everybody and everything, even a blade of grass.'

It opens on a hunting trip. Dr. James Gregory, trying to forget the fact that his wife Natalie (whom he calls 'Princess') has just left him, is out to bag a deer. Instead, he becomes the prey, and only survives by shooting the hunter who's hunting him. His long recovery is enlivened by a second assassination attempt at the hospital (by Nina Rasmussen, the lovely fiancée of the man he shot), and by Natalie's return from Reno. Despite her 'moral revulsion' to his involvement in the 'atomic rat race' at Alamos, she wants to give their marriage a second chance. Soon, a colleague's death highlights the fact that a series of mishaps has been steadily taking 'Project' scientists out of the picture. Natalie comes under suspicion of murder and disappears, as does Nina's brother. Gregory and Nina end up working together, and a mutual attraction quickly develops (he calls her 'Spanish'). The duo heads into a morass of danger, violence and surprising betrayals.

Though the language (Natalie regularly addresses Greg as 'darling') is dated, Hamilton's exciting, well plotted story stands the test of time. His hero is tough and pragmatic, with John Wayne's steadfast integrity and a no-nonsense attitude. There are spies vs. federal agents, a love triangle to spice up the action, and a philosophical debate about scientific advances that can be used for evil (Hamilton comes down firmly on the side of pursuing them before the bad guys do). If you haven't read Assassins Have Starry Eyes, try to find a copy. I re-read mine often.

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