by Rory Clements3 out of 5
1936. Europe is in turmoil. The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland. In Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror. Spain has erupted in civil war.
In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within weeks, she is found dead in her Cambridge bedroom, a silver syringe clutched in her fingers.
In a London club, three senior members of the British establishment light the touch paper on a conspiracy that will threaten the very heart of government. Even the ancient colleges of Cambridge are not immune to political division. Dons and students must choose a side: right or left, where do you stand?
When a renowned member of the county set and his wife are found horribly murdered, a maverick history professor finds himself dragged into a world of espionage which, until now, he has only read about in books. But the deeper Thomas Wilde delves, the more he wonders whether the murders are linked to the death of the girl with the silver syringe - and, just as worryingly, to the scandal surrounding King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson...
Set against the drumbeat of war and moving from Berlin to Cambridge, from Whitehall to the Kent countryside, and from the Fens to the Aragon Front in Spain, this big canvas international thriller marks the beginning of a major new series from bestselling author Rory Clements.
History professor Thomas Wilde is dragged in to help when his neighbour's best friend dies. The police aren't interested, but it soon leads to a bigger plot, with the dark world of espionage on the brink of a second world war.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I'm torn with this one. It has all the makings of a good book. It is well-written and is a solid historical fiction. We follow Thomas as he uncovers the mystery of Nancy's death, and gets caught up with Nazi-sympathisers, Russians, and very real danger around every corner.
The truth is I was bored, and struggled to read for more than twenty minutes without losing concentration, and I don't know why. It is slow-building drama, perhaps I found it a little too dawdling and quaint.
The characters are, for the most part, interesting.
Thomas Wilde is an American, and a History professor at Cambridge. He's focused on his students reaching their full potential, by questioning everything they come across. And he is determined not to let himself be swayed by any of the propaganda and the increasingly impassioned and volatile politics.
The emphasis on the nations being swept up in a fury of righteous politics rang particularly true for what is going on here and now. Distrust is breeding; and morals bent or completely broken, for the greater good.
The mystery of Nancy's death stays at the centre of the book, as the story branches out with other murders and subterfuges.
Sometimes I felt that certain aspects of the plot were entirely irrelevant - the German mistress and her blackmail, and the scenes with the King. Yes, I know they are loosely connected to the drive of the bad guys, but I felt these scenes were lumped in, awkward, and unnecessary. They definitely took some of the focus away from what Thomas Wilde was facing.
The only other negative was how disappointed I was with the character of Lydia. She's pretty much the only female character in the main cast, and it is her best friend that has died; it is her insistence that Thomas Wilde help her; she is pegged as creative and smart... but after the first few chapters she quickly becomes part of the background. She's the token love interest, and damsel in distress, and defers completely to Thomas and the other male characters.
Overall, I would recommend reading this and deciding for yourselves; and I would be interested in reading Clements other work.