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Vanishing Point (1982)

Novel (201 pages, 70,030 words)

First edition
Heinemann first edition
First edition
US first edition
Companion cover
Birdcage Companion

The Book

Maurice Crillon, artist and forger currently working for an unscrupulous Italian gallery owner, learns when his "mother" dies that he is actually the child of an English baronet, having been snatched from a burning house in France after a bombing raid in 1940 by the nursemaid who, having just lost her own child, decided to keep him.

He goes to visit his real parents, Sir Andrew and Lady Christine Starr of Avoncourt, Wiltshire. They accept his credentials, but have no wish to recognise him publicly, while he has no wish to tie himself down to life as an English country gent. Sir Andrew gives him a sum of money and invites him to take any of the pictures from their house as a memento. Crillon takes a portrait by Augustus John of Sir Andrew himself, not knowing that it has secret papers hidden in the lining behind the canvas. This initiates a manhunt across Europe involving the sinister Birdcage organisation and various establishment villains.

Birdcage is represented by Warboys, on the brink of retirement, and Kerslake, about to become director. They play the quotation game at length. Allowing for the Mills and Boon skeleton of the story, the book is good entertainment, though the villains are not villainous or real enough to create any worry about the outcome.

Publishing History

Published in 1982 by Heinemann at £6.95 and in the US by Morrow at $10.95.
There was a Pan paperback in 1983.
According to the Heinemann archive, the provisonal title was Disappearing Trick