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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Brass Go-Between

Oliver Bleeck
(Ross Thomas)

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To purchase The Brass Go-Between

Title: The Brass Go-Between
Author: Oliver Bleeck
Genre: Novel
Written: 1969
Length: 224 pages
Availability: The Brass Go-Between - US
The Brass Go-Between - UK
The Brass Go-Between - Canada
Chien de métier ! - France
Der Messingdeal - Deutschland
  • Written by Ross Thomas; published under the pseudonym Oliver Bleeck
  • The first in the Philip St. Ives-series

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Our Assessment:

B+ : good entertainment

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 5/10/1969 Allen J. Hubin
Süddeutsche Zeitung . 21/8/2015 Fritz Göttler
Die Welt . 11/5/2015 Elmar Krekeler

  From the Reviews:
  • "Its central theme has merit (.....) And the author gallops us through St.Ives's ensuing adventures so fast we don't even mind a few minor loopholes." - Allen J. Hubin, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Der brechtische Anklang des deutschen Titels erscheint nicht unangemessen. Philip St. Yves, geschieden, williger Alimentezahler, Sensibilist, ist erfolgreich durch seinen sanften Widerspruchsgeist, der sich gern als Begriffsstutzigkeit tarnt." - Fritz Göttler, Süddeutsche Zeitung

  • "Ein elegantes, hartes Ding, eine extrem fein geschnittene, extrem elegant über alle verfügbaren Schnittstellen einer Gegenwart rasende Geschichte, die -- wie vielleicht schon mal erwähnt -- gar nicht mal so vergangen wirkt. (...) Auch so ist Philip St. Ives konkurrenzlos. Er ist einer von den Guten. Man muss ihn mögen, möchte glatt das Pokerspielen lernen. Und ein Abo abschließen beim Alexander Verlag. Es ist unmöglich, von Ross Thomas nicht gefesselt zu sein." - Elmar Krekeler, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Brass Go-Between is the first in a series by Ross Thomas -- writing as Oliver Bleeck -- that feature Philip St.Ives, a former newspaper columnist who found a neat little niche after he lost his job when the paper he wrote for folded: he is a go-between, trusted by both parties to handle the delicate exchange of goods and pay-off in cases of kidnapping, theft, or the like. He's been doing it for four year, and earned enough of a reputation that he regularly gets the call, with his lawyer, Myron Greene acting as his agent.
       The money is good -- and he needs it, for the alimony he pays his ex-wife and the expensive school she wants to send their young son to, as well as the comfortable lifestyle he enjoys -- and he seems to have a knack for it. He's not reckless, either -- "You're not exactly the boy-adventurer, are you ?" someone points out -- but his caution has served him well so far. He prefers to avoid taking risks -- but, given that he's dealing with criminals much of the time, it can't entirely be avoided; certainly not in this case.
       The case he gets involved in here finds the shield of Komporeen stolen from the Coulter Museum in Washington, D.C., where it was the centerpiece of a touring Pan-African Exhibit. The shield means a lot to those from where it comes; as one explains to St.Ives:

In sum, if one were to combine the sentimental, symbolic, and emotional values of the Crown of England, the Cross of Christianity, and your own Declaration of Independence, then one would have some inkling of how the shield is regarded by my people.
       Among the problems: there's been an uprising back in Africa, with the province of Komporeen seeking to break away from Jandola. It would help their cause immensely if those from Komporeen could get their hands on the shield, which both sides claim as their own.
       Those who stole the shield want $250,000 to return it to the museum -- and want St.Ives to be the go-between. He gets a ten-per-cent fee, so it is worth his while -- but he does have some concerns, and these only grow as things move forward.
       It looks like the thieves had inside help -- with the guard who presumably helped them soon found dead. Indeed, soon: "everyone who knew or had a pretty good idea who stole it" seems to have wound up dead, and St.Ives is having serious second thoughts, worried that he might be seen as a loose end in need of tying up too.
       He keeps the police informed, to the extent his go-between position allows, and they keep an eye on him -- as do representatives of breakaway Komporeen, who are very eager to get their hands on the shield (and certainly let St.Ives know that). For all that, bad things still happen -- and facilitating the return of the shield remains more complicated than your usual money-for-goods swap.
       The story proceeds enjoyably enough, with various interested parties trying to follow the proceedings up close and personal and yet quite a bit still happening despite pretty much under the noses of those watchful eyes. There's somewhat of an over-reliance on people hooked on heroin, but the crime and its (re)solution are reasonably well-conceived, with Thomas throwing in a few nice twists. While St.Ives wants to act merely as go-between, he can't help but get much more involved than that, and figures out who is behind the theft -- even though he knows that puts him in more danger. And even when he is pro-active, things do not turn out quite the way he might have wished, making for a decent final turn to the novel.
       St.Ives is an appealing narrator and protagonist, an easy-going guy who tends towards caution but is still willing to go out on a limb. He enjoys the good life -- living in a "reasonably-price residential hotel" -- and has a large circle of friends and acquaintances, many of who can be helpful in obtaining information or providing him with contacts. He's thoroughly professional -- though the authorities don't always appreciate that, since it's his rather peculiar profession he's true to, rather than getting the bad guys (though he notes they often get captured anyways, sooner or later). Parts of his biography are a bit thin -- the ex-wife exists pretty much only as someone he has to regularly pay money to -- but he's good company over the course of the few days that he's on this particular case.
       Thomas has an easy-going style, too, with flashes of a sharper edge that's carefully dosed. His narrator plays poker for decent stakes and will hit the bottle when the occasion demands it, but he's not very hard-boiled. Thomas makes a point of emphasizing how cautious St.Ives is -- but then leads him into situations where he has to take some risks, an effective technique.
       It makes for a fine little thriller and a good start to a series.

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 November 2021

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The Brass Go-Between: Reviews: Ross Thomas: Other books by Ross Thomas under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Ross Thomas lived 1926 to 1995.

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© 2021 the complete review

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