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From the acclaimed master of action and suspense. The all time classic. Paul Sherman of Interpol's Narcotics Bureau flies to Amsterdam on the trail of a dope king. With enormous skill the atmosphere is built up: Amsterdam with its canals and high houses; stolid police; psychopaths; women in distress and above all – murder.


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From the acclaimed master of action and suspense. The all time classic. Paul Sherman of Interpol's Narcotics Bureau flies to Amsterdam on the trail of a dope king. With enormous skill the atmosphere is built up: Amsterdam with its canals and high houses; stolid police; psychopaths; women in distress and above all – murder.

30 review for Puppet on a Chain

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    13/01/2017 I had read this book in the early eighties - I don't remember anything of the book other than the title. But the title suddenly flashed into my mind today. I wonder why? 17/07/2018 This book again came to mind today... 13/01/2017 I had read this book in the early eighties - I don't remember anything of the book other than the title. But the title suddenly flashed into my mind today. I wonder why? 17/07/2018 This book again came to mind today...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dee Arr

    I have read many of MacLean’s books, and I expected much more than what I received with “Puppet on a Chain.” Major Sherman works for Interpol, and is hot on the trail of a major drug smuggler. He has two female assistants accompanying him to Amsterdam, and together they must unravel the mystery and find out how the drugs are being transported and delivered. Most of MacLean’s plots are more convoluted, and the reader is kept guessing right up to the very end. “Puppet” presents what are supposed to I have read many of MacLean’s books, and I expected much more than what I received with “Puppet on a Chain.” Major Sherman works for Interpol, and is hot on the trail of a major drug smuggler. He has two female assistants accompanying him to Amsterdam, and together they must unravel the mystery and find out how the drugs are being transported and delivered. Most of MacLean’s plots are more convoluted, and the reader is kept guessing right up to the very end. “Puppet” presents what are supposed to be twists, but since there is no rhyme or reason for them to occur, the author’s desired effect is muted and the plot falls flat on its face. MacLean’s storytelling skill attempts to shine through and does make it easier to accept the plot choices, but this is not one of his best efforts. Three stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    There are other Maclean books I prefer but this is a little classic. A book is forever set in its time and setting these may change but fine writing endures. So here you do not have the gadgets of Bond or the ingenuity of Bourne but in Paul Sherman you have a determined investigator who remains credible in all his efforts, in an account that carries a threat and conveys a sense of danger still to a modern day reader. There is a menace in the pages that can disturb, a beautiful backdrop of Amster There are other Maclean books I prefer but this is a little classic. A book is forever set in its time and setting these may change but fine writing endures. So here you do not have the gadgets of Bond or the ingenuity of Bourne but in Paul Sherman you have a determined investigator who remains credible in all his efforts, in an account that carries a threat and conveys a sense of danger still to a modern day reader. There is a menace in the pages that can disturb, a beautiful backdrop of Amsterdam and its environs set against a seedy and frightening world of corruption and greed. The pleasure some seem to take in destroying human life is a chilling sensation that remains with you long after you finish the book. Perhaps it is the violence within a tourist setting that unsettles still when we are now familiar with drug related incidents and its gun crime culture in our modern cities.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael Laflamme

    Breathtaking Suspence This novel starts with a bang then proceeds at breakneck speed to a dizzying climax. This book should come equipped with seatbelts. This was my introduction to this author's work. If his other books are this good he'll have a new fan.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric Wright

    Set in Amsterdam and dealing with the drug trade, Paul Sherman of Interpol speaks in a voice similar to Agent 007. Too much description, telling and exaggerated action.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    MacLean seems to venture out of his depth in Puppet on a Chain, which results in a presentation of a drug culture that fits more with paranoid anxiety like Reefer Madness than with real drug economy. This story is full of over-top crazies, and the main investigator with his two super beautiful assistants reads like a silly male fantasy. This is redeemed somewhat by the investigator's incompetence -- he makes mistake after mistake, stumbling around Amsterdam -- eventually resulting in the most lu MacLean seems to venture out of his depth in Puppet on a Chain, which results in a presentation of a drug culture that fits more with paranoid anxiety like Reefer Madness than with real drug economy. This story is full of over-top crazies, and the main investigator with his two super beautiful assistants reads like a silly male fantasy. This is redeemed somewhat by the investigator's incompetence -- he makes mistake after mistake, stumbling around Amsterdam -- eventually resulting in the most lurid nightmarish death sequence I've found in MacLean's work so far. The writing is also rather sloppy here, and MacLean's reliance on his go-to sentence structure of "it was a very _____ indeed" is so frequent that it really calls attention to itself. That withstanding, I still found it highly readable, and its very unreality leads to some very striking imagery indeed.

  7. 4 out of 5

    VijayaRaghavan S N

    I never took the saying 'Do not judge a book by it's cover' even for it's face value. But, after this book, I have come with peace with the very same saying. Never before have I ever read or even seen a book which was as shabby as this one. It's shabbiness was understandable because it was taken out of a public library. But I failed to account for the punch that very same book packed. As said above, this book was taken from a public library. Not by me buy my dad on my request that I need a thril I never took the saying 'Do not judge a book by it's cover' even for it's face value. But, after this book, I have come with peace with the very same saying. Never before have I ever read or even seen a book which was as shabby as this one. It's shabbiness was understandable because it was taken out of a public library. But I failed to account for the punch that very same book packed. As said above, this book was taken from a public library. Not by me buy my dad on my request that I need a thriller. I saw its cover and was like 'this doesn't look so cool'. But I didn't have any other books in my hand after the Foundation series. So unwillingly I took up the book. I opened it and found that writing was crammed and concluded that this is gonna take some time even though it's just 220 odd pages. The first couple of pages proved me right. But from then on it was one of the exhilaration rides. Mr MacLean has got a unique way of writing the thoughts going on through his character's mind. It is kind of realistic as if you are in the character's shoe and facing what he was facing. More than the story that was what took me by surprise. But then every book has its lows too. The author goes into too much of details for me that in particular intervals you find two or three pages without any dialogues. This gives a dry feeling to the book and the only reason why one star is missing from the ratings. Overall, one of the best thrillers I read. Right till the end. Even though you can guess what might happen next, it's not going to dampen the thrill. P. S. I did see a bit of myself in Sherman. Not that I am calling myself an ingenious detective with a future in the Narcotics Department of Interpol. But, with his character.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John Freeman

    My love of reading was shaped, in part, by the books that resided on my father’s paperback novel shelf—John D. MacDonald, Leon Uris, James A. Mitchner…and of course, Alistair MacLean. So it was with a strong sense of nostalgia that I picked up one of the few books by him I hadn’t read, Puppet on a Chain. I was disappointed. One disappointment was the main character, Major Sherman, an INTERPOL agent investigating narcotics trafficking in Amsterdam. He’s a typical MacLean character in that he is cyn My love of reading was shaped, in part, by the books that resided on my father’s paperback novel shelf—John D. MacDonald, Leon Uris, James A. Mitchner…and of course, Alistair MacLean. So it was with a strong sense of nostalgia that I picked up one of the few books by him I hadn’t read, Puppet on a Chain. I was disappointed. One disappointment was the main character, Major Sherman, an INTERPOL agent investigating narcotics trafficking in Amsterdam. He’s a typical MacLean character in that he is cynical, confident, and competent. Unfortunately, he is not as compelling as MacLean’s other protagonists. I will stop short of saying there is nothing likable about him, but he is far from charismatic. As I reader, I just don’t care about Sherman or his mission. The implausibility of the story is another thing I don’t like about the novel. Perhaps in 1969 the word heroin, alone, was inherently evil enough to not require elucidation. But if Sherman has spent two years trying to crack this operation, I want to see the scourge that heroin is, in detail, not have one strung out junkie paraded out of the character rolls and then have me believe that Sherman is risking his life for that. Sherman identifies the antagonists in the book as “a brilliantly directed criminal organization,” yet, given three opportunities to kill him, these brilliant criminals fail to carry it out. And I’m supposed to believe that an entire village is not only cooperating with Reverend Goodbody in his smuggling operation, but will commit murder?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Łukasz

    Well... Right now I'm in the process of re-reading my small collection of MacLean's books. Last time I read them was probably 10 years ago... They are, unfortunately, badly translated (and I want to get my hands on originals), which I see now and which is kind of distracting. But it's not that bad. Anyway, to the book at hand... I remembered "Puppet on a Chain" as a very disturbing story. I could vividly picture the three brutal deaths and it became the only MacLean's novel that I'd read only once Well... Right now I'm in the process of re-reading my small collection of MacLean's books. Last time I read them was probably 10 years ago... They are, unfortunately, badly translated (and I want to get my hands on originals), which I see now and which is kind of distracting. But it's not that bad. Anyway, to the book at hand... I remembered "Puppet on a Chain" as a very disturbing story. I could vividly picture the three brutal deaths and it became the only MacLean's novel that I'd read only once. Not that I didn't like it, but one can deal with just as much of such stuff. This time it was similar, except the story, that I liked then, and that didn't seem so good now. To be honest, by the end I felt that it would be a very short story if it wasn't for these cartoon villain-ish types of bad guys. Normally, a character like Paul Sherman would quickly find himself in a canal with a bullet hole in the back of the head and instead the bad guys play cat and mouse with him. They catch him, play with him a bit and leave him alive to deal with him later. And tell him everything in the process. Somehow his accomplishes are punished quickly and severely but he's always given time to escape. There is, of course a little twist at the very end, but still... For a high-ranked agent, Sherman is sometimes rather out of touch. So, on one hand it's a gripping book, but on the other, the complete unlikeliness of the story gets unbearable by the end.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nigel Pinkus

    It's been written by someone who knows what they're doing and it's 300 pages of hold on for life because this ol' train aint gonna be stopping anytime soon. It's an action- thriller rather a character driven story (of course) which only lets up when the story needs to to be told. Predominantly, however, there's action action action with some unusual good humour as well. You'll find that the dutch police get involved, the girls who work for Sherman get involved and Sherman, himself, stays up late It's been written by someone who knows what they're doing and it's 300 pages of hold on for life because this ol' train aint gonna be stopping anytime soon. It's an action- thriller rather a character driven story (of course) which only lets up when the story needs to to be told. Predominantly, however, there's action action action with some unusual good humour as well. You'll find that the dutch police get involved, the girls who work for Sherman get involved and Sherman, himself, stays up late chasing loose ends. Actually, he doesn't give too much away, but you have the feeling that, he's a lot closer to the truth than he shows. You also get the impression that, if Sherman doesn't get killed lurking around the back-streets and canals of Amsterdam, he'll probably get the killer or killers. But, with all the twists and turns in the story, you aren't really sure. You hope the good guys win, but you don't really know. The title, 'Puppet on a Chain', refers predominately to the poor drug addicts who are hooked on heroin, dancing to it's effects and are yanked along by the pushers and suppliers. The human body gets reduced to the highs and lows of the drug and they are always dancing to it's effects. Happily dancing when high and dancing madly for more when low. The drug addicted were like puppets on a chain "dancing to the tune of heroin", Alistair MacLean. p.270. They ended just dancing like puppets to the tune of their drugs. Four Stars for this thriller!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anne Earney

    Another I read because it's set in Amsterdam. Suspense is not my preferred genre - I'm not sure why, but I've never loved the genres of suspense or mystery. So I find it difficult to get into under the best of circumstances, and with this book, I felt only a mild sense of curiosity. When the whole thing was explained at the end, that was interesting in an intellectual way, but not exactly satisfying. On another note, this is possibly one of the most sexist novels I've ever read (at least in the Another I read because it's set in Amsterdam. Suspense is not my preferred genre - I'm not sure why, but I've never loved the genres of suspense or mystery. So I find it difficult to get into under the best of circumstances, and with this book, I felt only a mild sense of curiosity. When the whole thing was explained at the end, that was interesting in an intellectual way, but not exactly satisfying. On another note, this is possibly one of the most sexist novels I've ever read (at least in the top 10). The main character has two young, attractive female assistants, whom he continuously talks down to, treats as inferiors and generally denigrates their intelligence. Except for the end when suddenly he's in love with one of them and wants to marry her. Sigh. The novel is in first person, so it could just be that this particular character was meant to feel that way, but it certainly didn't help me feel for him. On the other hand, the book has its funny moments - the main character is always letting others take his gun from him (mostly because he screws up) and he can be endearingly forward about his faults, which include sometimes not being very good at his job. I probably won't be reading any more Alistair MacLean novels, although HMS Ulysses has been sitting on my shelves since college, and I have to admit I'm slightly more interested now, if only to see if it's any better.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aravind

    Though not in the league of MacLean's more famous action/adventure novels, Puppet on a Chain is a thrilling, fast paced read. The hero, Sherman, is James Bond-esque, complete with a couple of gorgeous assistants, but is more prone to failure. The villains are cruel, ruthless and violent, but a bit lacking in shrewdness to kill Sherman when they have the chance. All this makes for a very entertaining, high-speed ride through the streets and canals of Amsterdam that is best enjoyed without putting Though not in the league of MacLean's more famous action/adventure novels, Puppet on a Chain is a thrilling, fast paced read. The hero, Sherman, is James Bond-esque, complete with a couple of gorgeous assistants, but is more prone to failure. The villains are cruel, ruthless and violent, but a bit lacking in shrewdness to kill Sherman when they have the chance. All this makes for a very entertaining, high-speed ride through the streets and canals of Amsterdam that is best enjoyed without putting too much of thought into it. I liked it very much!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Crosby

    This is another MacLean I have elected to re-read after forty years. My primary memories are the puppet images and the rather gristly murder of one character who is pitchforked to death. Being largely a police procedural and themed on drugs, I was curious to see if this story would hold up or seem dated. While it does not equal MacLean's spy thrillers of the late 1960s, the story still works. In many ways it is very typical MacLean. It is also worth reading.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    Puppet On A Chain is an example of one of MacLean's later efforts. It's not a great entry. Too much sarcasm (which for me is a lot). Many of the scenes where the protagonist is in danger, just don't come across as such. It was later made into a movie. Can't comment on that. Reviewed by, David Feeney, author; Terror on the high seas Puppet On A Chain is an example of one of MacLean's later efforts. It's not a great entry. Too much sarcasm (which for me is a lot). Many of the scenes where the protagonist is in danger, just don't come across as such. It was later made into a movie. Can't comment on that. Reviewed by, David Feeney, author; Terror on the high seas

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

    The European spy thriller without computers or cell phones. Phone booths, sending coded messages, attention to detail and working by your wits are tools from the past. MacLean allows Major Paul Sherman to use these tools to combat the narcotics trade and it's associated murders in the streets of Amsterdam.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I liked this book overall. It contains one of Alistair Maclean's iconic scenes (the pitchfork scene, not to spoil it too much), but some of the techniques MacLean uses to maintain suspense are annoying. In this particular book, the overt withholding of critical information from the reader is used overmuch. Still fun, though.

  17. 4 out of 5

    R.E. Conary

    British Interpol agent Major Paul Sherman bulldozes through Amsterdam in his quest to uncover major drug dealers. That he manages to survive his headlong rushes into danger is more luck than pluck. The body count is high and the villain predictable. Not among MacLean’s best, but the description of the ravages of heroin use provide gritty realism to an otherwise mediocre bit of action-escapism.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Huw Evans

    One of Macleans best stories which is remorseless in its plot line. He was prolific but few of his stories are as good as this. The characters are not wholly beleivable but the plotline is. A great relief read, which will pass the time on a plane or beach trip.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I really liked this Maclean book but can't remember why.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    This was creepier than most of his books that I've read, but it was still really good. Very dark, scary characters. The ending was a bit weird, but not completely unexpected.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Стоянка

    A classics in mystery and murder. I've read it like 10 years ago, re-read it again now and it still gave me the chills.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Len Northfield

    Load of old pish. But with flashes of Maclean's genius.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott Holstad

    Three stars or four? Three or four? How about three and a half? This Alistair MacLean book is an odd one. It's darker than his other books, and even creepy. It's about Paul Sherman, a British Interpol agent, in Amsterdam looking for the source of drug trafficking into Britain. Aided by the Dutch police and by two good looking female assistants, he's almost immediately thrown into the thick of things when the person he was coming to meet is gunned down at the airport in his sight. After that, he's Three stars or four? Three or four? How about three and a half? This Alistair MacLean book is an odd one. It's darker than his other books, and even creepy. It's about Paul Sherman, a British Interpol agent, in Amsterdam looking for the source of drug trafficking into Britain. Aided by the Dutch police and by two good looking female assistants, he's almost immediately thrown into the thick of things when the person he was coming to meet is gunned down at the airport in his sight. After that, he's followed to and from his hotel throughout the novel. It was amusing to see "cannabis" as the source of so much evil in this book, considering pot is now legal in several states. However, the main drug Sherman is after is heroin. And he finds it in the strangest of locations. One of my complaints about the book is, after years on the case -- from afar -- and after the Dutch have done nothing, in one to two days, Sherman finds the drugs, the source, the dealers, everything. It's not very believable. In fact, the implausibility of the story is something I just don’t like about the novel. Sherman is constantly having his gun taken from him by the bad guys, who never kill him, thus giving him the opportunity to escape. He's above the law, breaking numerous laws himself as he tries to find out what he's after. The person we think to be the main dealer, Reverend Goodbody, has a whole town under his spell and willing to commit murder for him. Really? Then there's the life-like female puppets hanging from a chain on top of a warehouse. It's too much to take. Additionally, Sherman isn't very likeable. He lies constantly. He's a sexist pig. (This book was written in the 1960s....) After treating his female assistants like annoying children the whole way through the book, at the very end, he all of a sudden wants to marry one of them. Say what? He's so condescending. Prig. I wanted to like him. I wanted to be on his side. The bad guys were so bad, that I had to be on his side, but I think I secretly wanted him to die too. Terrible of me, I know. This book is not the author's worst, but it's far from his best -- very far. It is fast paced and entertaining, yes, but just not very believable, and that knocks it down a star for me. The sexism knocks it down another star. Three stars. Very cautiously recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vikram

    In these days of Internet and high technology, it’s a pleasant change to read a spy thriller, without all these complexities – thankfully no use of super-computers or cell phones, but what is referred to as ‘old school’ tactics, where the hero had no organisation or back-up (other than a pair of dumb assistants, who needed everything to be spelled-out). Rather surprising, when the book starts off with a description of one of them (Belinda) as being intelligent and loaned by the French secret ser In these days of Internet and high technology, it’s a pleasant change to read a spy thriller, without all these complexities – thankfully no use of super-computers or cell phones, but what is referred to as ‘old school’ tactics, where the hero had no organisation or back-up (other than a pair of dumb assistants, who needed everything to be spelled-out). Rather surprising, when the book starts off with a description of one of them (Belinda) as being intelligent and loaned by the French secret service ! For a high-ranking Interpol boss, Paul Sherman is either dumb or a bit out of touch. Normally, a character who keeps making mistakes (throughout the book), would quickly find himself in the nearest canal, with a bullet in the back of his head. Instead, these drug-traffickers tend to play cat and mouse with him. Although they catch him fairly easy, they then leave him alive (?)– to deal with later (rather unbelievable). Although his assistant Maggie is quickly, though rather viciously, disposed off, but they don’t seem to give him the same treatment. As a result, he's always given time to escape. If this were to actually happen in real life, these villains would be as incompetent as the good guys :) In fact, not only do they leave him alive, but they very naively tell him all their plans. As usual, there is the final chase in the end, to get the baddies out of action.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ralph Carlson

    Not one of his better books but still highly entertaining. Worth the read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mustafa Özçınar

    It was over 25 years ago when I first read that book in my language Turkish and I had fond memories. The grizzly and strange scenes of murder were still vivid in my mind. So when I saw it in a bookstore in Paris two years ago I bought it again and read it in the original language it was written. I had high hopes. I was a bit disappointed. The first person viewpoint feels a bit forced in some places. In other words some scenes in the plot seems to be planned that way just to make sure our hero se It was over 25 years ago when I first read that book in my language Turkish and I had fond memories. The grizzly and strange scenes of murder were still vivid in my mind. So when I saw it in a bookstore in Paris two years ago I bought it again and read it in the original language it was written. I had high hopes. I was a bit disappointed. The first person viewpoint feels a bit forced in some places. In other words some scenes in the plot seems to be planned that way just to make sure our hero sees the action. Sometimes nostalgia makes it harder to appreciate the qualities of a book objectively. So I am giving it 4 stars instead of 3 because I believe the first time readers will find it exciting and entertaining despite some of its shortcomings.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Davidg

    A fast fun exciting read - and a good way to spend a three hour flight. Of course it isn't realistic. Of course it could never happen like that. Rather like Fleming's Bond books, it was exciting escapism for the sixties and seventies. If you wanted serious research you had The Day of the Jackal, but if you wanted something faster paced with treachery and action, you had MacLean. It took me back to watching the film in a double bill with When Eight Bells Toll at 13. This was the darker and more vi A fast fun exciting read - and a good way to spend a three hour flight. Of course it isn't realistic. Of course it could never happen like that. Rather like Fleming's Bond books, it was exciting escapism for the sixties and seventies. If you wanted serious research you had The Day of the Jackal, but if you wanted something faster paced with treachery and action, you had MacLean. It took me back to watching the film in a double bill with When Eight Bells Toll at 13. This was the darker and more violent film and book. The film has the famous boat chase, which wouldn't work well on paper but the book has a greater sense of menace.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard Wise

    Not bad, but not great. Interpol agent Paul Sherman defends on Amsterdam with a couple of twenty-something, mini-skirted cuties and one of them gets killed. It's never quite clear why Interpol, an agency that in reality does not actually pursue malefactors, hires young girls with no ah, completely visible skills. Not a bad plot line if the characters were more believable. He's done much better.

  29. 5 out of 5

    B.E.

    If it wasn't for the fact that the story takes a rather long time to get to the point and there seems to be a lot of extraneous information between here and there, this would probably be five stars. I almost gave up on it several times. Obviously not my favorite MacLean novel, but it's good if you can hang in there and read it all. And when you get closer to the end, some of the extraneous stuff begins to make sense and weave into the plot. Not a book for those with a lack of patience.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Blake

    What a load of shit. This book definitely makes the bottom five. The plot was minimal, the 'action scenes' sucked. It seemed as though the protagonist would be in the middle of something, maybe a chase scene then suddenly he'll be eating breakfast. He was also an ass to his friends and just a terrible person.

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