[My appreciation to Mike Neumann and Penny Fielding, whose posts to the Quiller Mailing List on this subject led to the line of thinking expressed in this "Thought." -- IM]
TSS offers Quiller readers one of the most dramatic and breakneck-paced openings of any in the Q-orpus. From the novel's first words, we're bombarded with kinetic images of Q flying high above Sussex, then running down the beach, then whisked away by police escort and helicopter to the Bureau, then shot out to Tempelhof for a meeting with Croder, then to a midnight meeting in Hannover, then to the harrowing frontier crossing in Gunther's black-market truck, then to Moscow and Bracken's frantic briefing with a tag on him...fair takes one's breath away, it does.
List opinion on this rapid-fire sequence of events has ranged from the position that it's a very involving and entertaining narrative, to the opinion that it might be perhaps a bit *too* rushed. Since I concur with both opinions (it is somewhat overdone, but I do love rereading it), I thought I'd use this venue to explore another angle: that the pace of the mission, at its outset, is being rushed *deliberately.*
My reason for saying this is based on the fact that Croder is clearly creating a bogeyman to hook Quiller into the mission, by pretending there's a pressing danger from Schrenk's having been picked up again by the KGB, even though he knows of reports (reports Q's not privvy to) that the whole story about Schrenk being abducted from the Hannover clinic is a sham. Moreover, as I demonstrated in the "Thought" for January 17, that the Leningrad cell is intact argues strongly for assuming Schrenk didn't even break in his first visit to Lubyanka (as indeed he didn't).
Given this scenario, it would make perfect sense for Croder to have seen that things moved as quickly as possible in order to get Q involved without giving him much time to think about it. Not only does everything seem suspiciously arranged so as to give the impression that a serious crunch is on, but Croder adds a generous dollop of psychological pressure as well: for example, there's the initial contact, by radio, to Q, who has to admit in front of a Signals room full of his comrades, that he's too frazzled to go to the aid of Shapiro, a known and respected member of their ranks. Croder keeps the pressure on in Tempelhof by rubbing Q's exaggerated pride raw with his expressions of contempt ("what more do you want, for God's sake?") and his omninous implications of global disaster should Q fail to follow through.
While there's no way to know whether this underlying stream was in Hall's mind as he wrote TSS, it's very clear he wants us to understand that the beginning of TSS is, both in terms of activity and pace, really like no other in the entire Q-orpus. To this end, I think it likely that speed is just another element to get Q into what is likely to prove a very unpalatable mission he'd otherwise certainly refuse.