This is a very fast-moving story which involves many different sub-plots, mysteries, life and death struggles and double-dealing, all of which lead Tom Wilde into dangerous situations, not just in England but also in continental Europe. These multiple plots ensured that it was never absolutely clear who could be trusted and where their loyalties belonged, resulting in a degree of tension being maintained throughout the story. I don’t want to go into any detail about where his investigations led him because this would risk exposing some of the complex ways in which the apparently disparate storylines develop to form a cohesive whole. However, although the plotting had little of the more subtle labyrinthine quality of say a John le Carré novel, as anyone familiar with Rory Clements’ previous books will know, there is plenty of action and intrigue from beginning to end, providing an entertaining, tension-filled reading experience! I did find that some of the plot developments and outcomes required some suspension of disbelief but I didn’t find this too irritating and so was happy to go along with the roller-coaster of a ride!
However, one thing which did irritate me throughout the story was a will they/won’t they romantic tension between Tom and Harriet, one of the key characters, and the consequent jealous reaction from Tom’s long-time partner, Lydia. Not only did this feel irrelevant to the story, but the nature of the interactions and the all too frequent references to how attractive Harriet was felt both clichéd and rather juvenile!
To finish on a more positive note, one of the things I enjoyed most about this author’s writing is the way in which he so effectively interweaves historical fact into his fictional story-telling. I always learn something new from his novels and they inspire me to do more of my own research to discover even more. The ‘Historical Note’ chapter at the end of his books always make me appreciate the many ways in which he uses his extensive research to drive the narrative and to add an impressive authenticity to it by evoking such a convincing sense of time and place. I also appreciated his explanations about what happened to the real-life characters.
One thread in the story concerns the formalisation in 1942 of the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question’ and there were times when, familiar though I am with this shameful period of history, I found myself in tears as I read about the inhumane way in which so many millions of people of people were treated. I think this is a reflection of the powerfully compassionate way in which the author portrayed their suffering and captured the terror they must have felt when they realised what awaited them.
This is the fifth book in the Tom Wilde series and as I’d read two of the earlier ones, I was familiar with a number of the regular characters who feature in the novels and so was quickly able to understand their past history and the dynamics of their interrelationships. However, I do think that it would be possible to read this latest story as a stand-alone without feeling too frustrated by the characters’ past histories.
As a result of the irritations I felt I did struggle with how to rate this story but the author’s effective use of his research tipped the balance from three to four stars!
With thanks to Readers First and Zaffre for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review