Uncommon Mystery - The Third Encounter

Jun 11, 2010

Murray, KY – The International Mystery Writers Festival is about to get underway in Owensboro next week and if you plan on attending you may want to pick up a mystery novel or two, recommended by commentator Michael Cohen. This week, he peeks through the pages of The Third Encounter, by Sara Woods, who herself was a member of many mystery writer societies. This uncommon mystery features British barrister Antony Maitland on the case involving an old friend, who has been murdered.

Before the Second World War, Antony Maitland met at school a boy who mentioned that his father was German, though the last name the boy was using was his English mother's name. Their next encounter came when Antony Maitland was a British spy working at Radiodiffusion Fran ais in Paris in 1943, supposedly broadcasting propaganda for the Vichy government but actually sending coded messages to Resistance fighters and other spies. Into the radio studio walks the boy Maitland knew at school under another name, now the grown-up Gestapo Kommandant Ohlendorff. He recognizes Maitland, who is captured and tortured. Maitland manages to escape, but has permanently lost the use of his right arm.

Now it is 1960, and Antony Maitland is a barrister in London. A friend, also a former spy during the war, is murdered, and Antony is part of the legal defense team for the accused young nephew of the murdered man. Antony suspects the murder was committed by a British traitor who was responsible for many of his countrymen's deaths during the war. Antony also thinks Ohlendorff might be in London, and he fears a third encounter with him.

The Third Encounter, which has nothing to do with the video game of that name, was originally published with the title The Taste of Fears; like Bloody Instructions, the first book about Antony maitland, that title comes from Shakespeare's Macbeth. The first Antony Maitland mystery was written in 1961, and the author, Sara Woods, published forty-eight more books about him until 1987, when the last one came out, shortly after her death.

Sara Woods was one of the pen names of Lana Bowen-Judd, who was born in the north of England. Bowen-Judd worked as a solicitor's clerk during World War Two, and it was in that law office that she got the background for the Antony Maitland books. After she married, Bowen-Judd spent some years running a pig farm. Later, she and her husband emigrated to Canada, where she spent the last thirty years of her life, and where all the Antony Maitland books were written, though they are all set in England. This book is the fourth in the series.

The book was written at a time when there were international anxieties other than Cold War tensions. The war had been over for more than ten years and it was not at all clear that Germany would not begin to quietly absorb the old Nazis and Fascists into her government. That did not happen, but many people around the world were still very concerned that it might. Sara Woods reassures us that Antony Maitland and the rest of the British are on the case.

Michael Cohen is Professor Emeritus at Murray State University.

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