Caravan to Vaccares
Written within MacLean's period of peak skill, 1970's Caravan to Vaccares ranks among his most
satisfying works. He mixes espionage, danger, intrigue, a few dabs of romance, and plenty of "local color,"
producing a page-turner that frequently rewards the reader with both psychological wit-matching and physical
action. This is one of the few Alistair MacLean books I have re-read several times over the years.
As a caravan of gypsies heads for the annual festival at Saintes-Maries, in southern France, some other
interested parties follow along. The flamboyant Duc de Croytor is researching a book about gypsy customs — or so he
claims. Meanwhile, Neil Bowman, a British agent, has his own reasons for staying close to the caravan. What secrets
are the gypsies hiding from the outside world? How many governments would be interested in some of the other
inhabitants of that caravan?
- Action and more action!
- One of MacLean's better ruthless-yet-sardonic protagonists, tossing off bons mot as he unravels
the baddies' schemes.
- Good twists: help from unexpected sources.
- A great bullfighting scene, with far more psychological terror than animal cruelty.
- Ancillary characters — the Duc and the ladies — enhance the tale, lifting it above a more typical
- Any successful thriller requires some suspension of disbelief. However, in this case, the protagonists'
survival is almost literally unbelievable. Lots of good fortune and several doses of fantastically poor
judgment by the bad guys.
- Reflects poorly (and stereotypically) on gypsy culture (though not nearly as poorly as some of his
earlier books reflect on Japanese people).
- A few of the scenes involving Bowman's object of affection are a bit overdone — young women would be
unlikely to act in some of those ways. (At least the ones I know!)
A ripping good read, as they say. Never dull, and it will slake your thirst for adventure and heart-pounding
suspense, while adding a dab of humorous and tender moments.
♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ (8 out of 10)