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(209) Although it might appear that Ambler is simply reprising the ancient theme of appearance versus reality, his 1938 text's emphasis on its protagonist's dispossessed status reinforces the idea that, "lies and more lies" being the era's new currency (257), the putative truth of anything is at best prismatic.
An assignment that Ambler received one year after the release of his third novel reveals how disposed he was, in light of contemporaneous events, to sabotage the presuppositions of old-fashioned detective fiction.
Just as importantly, Ambler conscripts the reader into his antihero's plight.
The novel's conclusion adds an ironic twist to Ambler's drama of derailed detection.
Noting Ambler's familiarity with Nietzsche's oeuvre, Ronald J.
Much later in the novel, by way of suggesting what this man of dubious background and numerous surnames represents, Ambler interjects this striking commentary:
The larger issue, then, that Ambler examines through his protagonist's obsessive fascination with Dimitrios is what he articulated only a year later in Journey into Fear--namely, the morass of danger within the quotidian world "waiting to make nonsense of all your comfortable ideas about your relations with time and chance, ready to remind you--in case you had forgotten--that civilisation was a word and that you still lived in the jungle" (70).
As though to frame A Coffin for Dimitrios with reference to this motif, the narrator begins by citing "one of those convenient, question-begging aphorisms" often heralded as reflecting Enlightenment wisdom: "A Frenchman named Chamfort, who should have known better, once said that chance was a nickname for Providence." Fond of contemptuous and rather shallow epigrams, the historical Nicolas Chamfort (1741-1794) serves as Ambler's stalking-horse for questioning the extent to which "chance does occasionally operate with a sort of fumbling coherence readily mistakable for the workings of a self-conscious Providence" (9).
Lending credence to Gavin Lambert's claim that the structure of A Coffin for Dimitrios may be "Ambler's most brilliant achievement" (112), the first two-thirds is dominated by diegetic accounts of Dimitrios that stir Latimer's investigative instincts, whereas the largely mimetic final third is capped by his grappling with this formidable adversary for simple survival.
In his exemplary study titled Cover Stories, after positing that thrillers "foreground questions of point of view" (80), Denning observes that Ambler usually employs by way of narrators either an "actor telling his own tale after the event" (Epitaph for a Spy) or a "cynical historian showing us the ironic twistings of those who think they are more than puppets" (A Coffin for Dimitrios).
Though Marukakis, and by extension Ambler, concedes that his rhetoric is colored by phrases borrowed from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' The Communist Manifesto (1848), (11) he propounds the following indictment of a hypothetical representative of "big business" and Dimitrios's alliance with its Darwinian practices:
"The story of Dimitrios had no proper ending," writes Ambler, by virtue of his typifying the corruptive "principle of expediency" that the novelist sees as regulating society worldwide (283, 253).