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The Tightrope Men

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Giles Denison's life is turned upside down when he awakes to find himself in a luxurious hotel in Oslo and, peering into the bathroom mirror, discovers the face of another man! He has been kidnapped from his flat in London and transformed into famous Finnish scientist, Dr Harold Feltham Meyrick. Compelled to adjust to his new persona (including meeting his daughter) and to Giles Denison's life is turned upside down when he awakes to find himself in a luxurious hotel in Oslo and, peering into the bathroom mirror, discovers the face of another man! He has been kidnapped from his flat in London and transformed into famous Finnish scientist, Dr Harold Feltham Meyrick. Compelled to adjust to his new persona (including meeting his daughter) and to play out the role assigned to him by his captors, he embarks on a dangerous escapade from Norway to Finland and across the border into Soviet Russia.


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Giles Denison's life is turned upside down when he awakes to find himself in a luxurious hotel in Oslo and, peering into the bathroom mirror, discovers the face of another man! He has been kidnapped from his flat in London and transformed into famous Finnish scientist, Dr Harold Feltham Meyrick. Compelled to adjust to his new persona (including meeting his daughter) and to Giles Denison's life is turned upside down when he awakes to find himself in a luxurious hotel in Oslo and, peering into the bathroom mirror, discovers the face of another man! He has been kidnapped from his flat in London and transformed into famous Finnish scientist, Dr Harold Feltham Meyrick. Compelled to adjust to his new persona (including meeting his daughter) and to play out the role assigned to him by his captors, he embarks on a dangerous escapade from Norway to Finland and across the border into Soviet Russia.

30 review for The Tightrope Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Geevee

    Just about gets a three star rating. I enjoyed the story and the idea that a man had his face changed (it's fiction after all) for some deception be that criminal or other as the central aspect of the story, but the ending was weak and left too much unexplored. The book is written during the cold war (1973) and intertwines the West/East rivalries and suspicions with the man waking to find his face changed. For the most part the story moves along at pace and links characters and countries as they Just about gets a three star rating. I enjoyed the story and the idea that a man had his face changed (it's fiction after all) for some deception be that criminal or other as the central aspect of the story, but the ending was weak and left too much unexplored. The book is written during the cold war (1973) and intertwines the West/East rivalries and suspicions with the man waking to find his face changed. For the most part the story moves along at pace and links characters and countries as they try to understand, find, and dodge others. There are also nice and well-reasoned aspects with technology and what it could/couldn't do in "good" or "bad" hands. Desmond Bagley also provides good descriptions of the countryside and cities his characters find themselves in too. Overall an enjoyable early 1970s thriller, it but lacks the solid ending leaving too many avenues unexplored around the face change.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dipanjan

    The plot, in the age of modern espionage, is outdated. Having said so, even then this is a pretty plain jane thriller. It starts off with cool opening, but fails to capitalise on it. It does not have any OMG moments. It's just a linear story which is lost somewhere between an adventure and espionage. The protagonist is not that strong and the adversaries are close to non-existent. The last bit can be defined as a bit "realistic" in the decisions made in the higher levels of espionage wherein a f The plot, in the age of modern espionage, is outdated. Having said so, even then this is a pretty plain jane thriller. It starts off with cool opening, but fails to capitalise on it. It does not have any OMG moments. It's just a linear story which is lost somewhere between an adventure and espionage. The protagonist is not that strong and the adversaries are close to non-existent. The last bit can be defined as a bit "realistic" in the decisions made in the higher levels of espionage wherein a field officer is just a pawn in the greater game. But that's about it. There is not even one spike moment in the plot where it makes you turn that page to know what happened next. This story os from the era where espionage depended critically on covert communication modes like dead drops, coded signals and double agents. I was not expecting modern communications but I sure was expecting the mastery of the cold war era. This book fails to rise to the occasion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Monica Akinyi Odhiambo

    Why I loved this book, it reminded me of Faceoff. The legendary movie that had, Nicholas Cage and John Travolta. Anyway this novel had me turning the pages so fast just to know what would happen next. Desmond Bagley is amongst the best thrillers writers of his time and am glad I got to read one of his books.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jo Everett

    This is an unlikely but addictive read, as confirmed by a friend. Once you start to wind your way through the mystery of Deneson's existence you won't be able to put it down. Embedded in the Cold War era, this simple looking thriller, reminiscent of the Manchurian Candidate, is easy to read but highly enjoyable!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    Though some of the plot points were quite ludicrous, this was a fun and entertaining Cold War adventure thriller. The action started in Norway and soon moved to both Finland and the Soviet Union and, like all the author's works, it was well written and researched.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    I read this book in junior high and the title alone has stuck with me all these years. I think it's worth a re-read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    This IMHO is the best of Bagley's books. I love the concept and the execution.

  8. 5 out of 5

    S.P. Muir

    When I was a mere spotty-faced youngster, I was hooked on Alistair Maclaen's offerings. But then came that terrible day when I found I'd read them all (at least, as many as he'd by then published) and I had to cast my easy-to-read thriller net around the reaches of the bookshop (remember those) for another. Thus came my brief flirtation with Desmond Bagley; and this one was a corker. I can't see this catching the imagination of today's reader's too much though. The plot does sound pretty ludicrou When I was a mere spotty-faced youngster, I was hooked on Alistair Maclaen's offerings. But then came that terrible day when I found I'd read them all (at least, as many as he'd by then published) and I had to cast my easy-to-read thriller net around the reaches of the bookshop (remember those) for another. Thus came my brief flirtation with Desmond Bagley; and this one was a corker. I can't see this catching the imagination of today's reader's too much though. The plot does sound pretty ludicrous, and in many ways it is. But what really underpins it is the very real threat - no, certain knowledge - that we are all about to be annihilated by a thermonuclear attack before the end of the day. Every few minutes we all lift our heads and listen for the three-minute warning siren, don't we. Don't we? And that is precisely why modern readers will most likely miss the true underlying tension of the plot. The niggling, constant fear of being the next Hiroshima or Nagasaki is gone. Anyone born after 1980 won't have much of a clue what I'm talking about. Oh, they might understand that there was a cold war going on, but the raw emotion of it - nope. They've not been bombarded by the 'Duck and Cover' government information broadcasts on what to do when the nuclear strike happens. Recently, there was something of a furore when an obsolete Russian bomber flew rather too close to British airspace. It was all over the news, it was in the newspapers; hell, even the rolling news reporters sounded scared. My wife and I couldn't help laughing. When we were growing up in middle of the cold war, it was happening every day, often several times a day - and back then, the bombers were state of the art! Although I may have over-egged it a little, it was exactly that tension that The Tightrope Men tapped into. As preposterous and far fetched as it all appears now, Giles Denison's nightmare situation seemed all too plausible back then. I was tempted to award it five stars but on reflection, because of the times we live in, I could only give it four - and even that many was probably fueled by nostalgia. If you were a post-1980 child and you do give it a go, please, try putting yourself in the shoes of your parents and grandparents. It makes so much more sense if you do.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Juho Salo

    This is my third Bagley, the first two were more than two decades ago. I remember from the earlier ones that Bagley was fascinated with guns, amnesia and facial surgery, with the stories being fast-paced adventure thrillers with background research incorporated into the books as info dumps. This third book fits to that description, almost to the point of parody. Bagley did his research not only concerning Finland (one of the main locations), but about computers and upcoming technology as well. Wh This is my third Bagley, the first two were more than two decades ago. I remember from the earlier ones that Bagley was fascinated with guns, amnesia and facial surgery, with the stories being fast-paced adventure thrillers with background research incorporated into the books as info dumps. This third book fits to that description, almost to the point of parody. Bagley did his research not only concerning Finland (one of the main locations), but about computers and upcoming technology as well. While descriptions about technology usually age badly, Bagley's descriptions on brute forcing encryption, lasers and surgeries seem "correct" almost 50 years later. The big problem with the book is that while the characters have motivation in the form of mcguffin, the ways on which most characters are robed into the story tend to be unbelievable. Special award goes to the protagonist's face surgery, which doesn't directly tie into the plot at all and is only explained in the afterword. Also: the romance is icky and unnecessary.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sreedhar Pothukuchi

    One of the better ones from Desmond Bagley, set in Finland and part of Finland which is now in Russia. A gripping story from the Cold War era, with espionage and counter espionage flowing freely across the iron curtain. Not a very deep story and also does not have too much content, of the informative kind, one sees in Bagley novels. But a refreshingly fast paced story telling and remarkable lack of boring repetitions. It should rank among the top 3 of his novels.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Neil Fulwood

    Akin to ‘Running Blind’ - espionage genre with the thrilleramics held back for the big finale; in media res opening; double- and triple-crosses; MacLean-like traitor-in-the-midst shenanigans - but not quite as pacy and focussed as that novel, ‘The Tightrope Men’ is still a solid, well-crafted and imaginatively conceived piece of work.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Fiona

    I love Desmond Bagley books but sadly this is not his best. if you can suspend belief then the story is okish. A man has his face changed, then changed back later! Bit far fetched but what Desmond Bagley does best is spy stories and the actual plot is wonderful. Enjoyed this book, but maybe another is better!!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Irving Waters

    I read this one when I was eleven. Must have found it in my father's box of books. I just remember all of the espionage stuff being completely fresh. I had to re-read parts as I din't have the background to understand why things were happening. Interesting to look back on it. Reading a tale such as this without having seen the movie genre at all (just the bionic man etc).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rik

    One of the better Bagley books as far as I'm concerned, with an interesting plot and plenty of tension. There were some nice little twists, and good description, though the characters remained a little stiff - probably due to the era this was written in.

  15. 4 out of 5

    LeeAnn

    Meh And what a way to "finish" the number of books on my 2020 Reading Challenge. Naturally I will be reading still. But really. Would have enjoyed accomplishing the goal with a book I could say I loved. I mean, this wasn't terrible. But it's just a meh. 🤷‍♀️

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rich Murkin

    Quite exciting. I like it when he has his artificial jowls removed.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Jenkins

    Proper old fashioned spy thriller, not quite le carre but still a good story. It does feel nearly fifty years old!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lars Dradrach

    As a child/teenager I absolutely loved the ”simple” suspense novels by Desmond Bagley & Alistair MacLean, eating up every word. Triggered by an audio adaption of Landslide I fell upon, I decided to revisit Desmond Bagley to see if the Novels could withstand the wear of more than 35 years. The first (pleasant) surprise was that even though I thought I had read all the books, not all were translated to Danish at that time, so I could start out with a couple of new experiences. The Golden Keel (1963) As a child/teenager I absolutely loved the ”simple” suspense novels by Desmond Bagley & Alistair MacLean, eating up every word. Triggered by an audio adaption of Landslide I fell upon, I decided to revisit Desmond Bagley to see if the Novels could withstand the wear of more than 35 years. The first (pleasant) surprise was that even though I thought I had read all the books, not all were translated to Danish at that time, so I could start out with a couple of new experiences. The Golden Keel (1963) , High Citadel (1965) , Wyatt's Hurricane (1966) The first 3 books, all new to me, were pleasant surprises and it was plain to see why Bagley so quickly became a best-seller novelist, the stories are well written with a fast pace and a sense of detail which makes them readable even today. Landslide (1967) Landslide was a revisit and one of my favorites both back then and now, the story is catching and has a definite film manuscript feeling about it, The Vivero Letter (1968) Another “new” novel, it was not as strong as the first 4 but still enjoyable. The Spoilers (1969) Another new novel and a definitely low point, the story is weak and utterly unbelievable. Running Blind (1970) Another reread and another favorite, maybe his best novel, the story is strong, the setting in Iceland is brilliant and characters, simple as they are, are believable. The Freedom Trap (1971) Another new novel very loosely connected to "running blind", this time mostly placed in Ireland, slightly weaker than it's predecessor but still a enjoyable read. The Tightrope Men (1973) Another reread, Bagley's take on the Cold War political thriller, which Le Carre made famous in those years, The political intrigues falls somewhat flat for me, but the surrounding action story is Bagley at his best The Snow Tiger (1975), The Enemy (1977) Flyaway (1978), Bahama Crisis (1980), Windfall (1982), Night Of Error (1984), Juggernaut (1985)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul Parkinson

    I think he was the first thriller writer I read, and this was years ago. I couldn't get enough of him at the time and bought all I could find (only 5). I'm guessing on the year

  20. 5 out of 5

    Strong Extraordinary Dreams

    I enjoyed this as a teenager; I think it would be a great holiday read for any adventure story lover.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Libbeth

    Review from Amazon: Book Description Giles Denison's life is turned upside down when he awakes to find himself in a luxurious hotel in Oslo and, peering into the bathroom mirror, discovers the face of another man! He has been kidnapped from his flat in London and transformed into famous Finnish scientist, Dr Harold Feltham Meyrick. Compelled to adjust to his new persona (including meeting his daughter) and to play out the role assigned to him by his captors, he embarks on a dangerous escapade from Review from Amazon: Book Description Giles Denison's life is turned upside down when he awakes to find himself in a luxurious hotel in Oslo and, peering into the bathroom mirror, discovers the face of another man! He has been kidnapped from his flat in London and transformed into famous Finnish scientist, Dr Harold Feltham Meyrick. Compelled to adjust to his new persona (including meeting his daughter) and to play out the role assigned to him by his captors, he embarks on a dangerous escapade from Norway to Finland and across the border into Soviet Russia.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    My first ever 'adult' book that I read. My mom had it in her book case and it totally blew me away. I made a very slow progression from 'childrens' books to 'adult' books - I stayed in the childrens' shelves in the library for a long time. But after reading the Tightrope men I was hooked on reading more adult novels.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rasma

    A good little Cold War spy thriller containing all the features one expects of such a book and nothing more. A great source of examples of unnecessary adverbial dialogue tags (she said, sardonically). I got hooked at the outset by the well described setting of downtown Oslo. A lot of Scandinavian landscape. Bagley has done his homework.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Felicity Fozard

    Desmond Bagley writes a great action adventure novel. His heroes are usually scientific types caught up in the spying game, or spies themselves. Despite being written in the 60's & 70's, they still get you caught up in the action. I'm surprised none of them have ever been made into a movie. Desmond Bagley writes a great action adventure novel. His heroes are usually scientific types caught up in the spying game, or spies themselves. Despite being written in the 60's & 70's, they still get you caught up in the action. I'm surprised none of them have ever been made into a movie.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Simon Mendoza

    can't say i understood what was going on but it had enough of a plot to keep me going til the end

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Fantastic storyline seems way ahead of its time .

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nagesh Kumar

    Spellbinding..thrilling ride all the way..a kind of new take on impersonation and Amnesia...Kept me turning pages till there were no more...Bagley is a master, no doubt

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tim Diacon

    Classic old school thriller although I preferred The Freedom Trap also by Bagley

  29. 4 out of 5

    Troy

    Listened to 7 hours, got a little lost in the end and gave up. Plot and characters not enough to keep me interested.

  30. 4 out of 5

    J.T.

    A good espionage thriller, propulsive and engaging, and a kind of a prototype for the film Face/Off. Quick easy read, but with little lasting impact.

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