Himalayan Assignment, by F. Van Wyck Mason. 282 pages, with sketch map end-paper. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1952. Price, $3.00.
This is a lurid tale of a political mission to darkest Jonkhar (between Nepal and Tibet) by a strong, silent U. S. Intelligence Officer, Colonel North. It contains all the usual ingredients of mystery and horror and some extra local ones. We have two heroines, both with remarkable physical attributes which are never left to the imagination. After a neck-to-neck race for the hero’s favor, the snowy-haired young Esthonian baroness is defeated by a blue-blooded inhabitant of Back Bay, who flies triumphantly back with him to safety and love. The villains include a renegade U. S. general, an assortment of Russian and Chinese Communist agents, a pseudo-zoologist, a Nepalese Rajah. All these characters have incredible physical endurance and can perform feats with any kind of firearm which would put William Tell completely out of action. Besides a variety of violent deaths, the breathless reader takes part in a monumental landslide, native sacrificial rites entailing rivers of blood, escape from a Tibetan prison by means of a pair of cotton pants and two garter catches, and a final showdown on a Himalayan pass in November without axes, ropes or adequate food. The pleasantest character is a loyal Gurkha lieutenant, who is inexplicably forgotten when the hero flies away.
The wild mountain valleys and the savage beauty of Nepal and the Tibetan scenery and local color of Jang are well done. They would make much better reading without the impossible story to which they form the background.