Most of us take an entirely positive view of Interpol, the cross-border crime-busting organisation, even though we have only the haziest view of what it actually does. This is at least partly thanks to the influence of Biggles, hero of schoolboy fiction, who used to go on perilous missions for Interpol to track down international felons. Agatha Christie was another powerful influence. Her Belgian detective Hercule Poirot might have a discrete word with well-placed Interpol friends when he wanted information on some master criminal.

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