A Treachery of Spies. Manda Scott

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Two great stories rolled into one. A second world war espionage story that Len Deighton would have been proud of, and a modern crime story worthy of any of the present day authors writing excellent crime fiction.

The murder of an elderly lady in Orleans, France, is a horrible crime at the best of times. The fact that she has been executed and then mutilated, in a very specific manner, makes the crime even more hideous.

Enter Captain Ines Picaut of the French Police, and her small team. Picaut is recently returned to work having been badly burnt in a house fire but us soon into her stride.

The team tentatively identify the woman and link her to a production company making a TV series about a band of French Resistance Fighters during the Second World War.

The investigation will lead them to start to uncovering facts about the dead woman, and the part she played in the Resistance.

Here starts the second story. That of spies, double agents and treachery. The story of a young woman that escapes from occupied Europe and is trained as an agent that can work with the Resistance. She will work behind enemy lines with agents from across Europe and with French citizens trying to free their own country.

Whilst in France she will encounter; French people who sympathise with the Germans and see the retribution that is brought on them by their own Countrymen; she will have to work with people she despises and decide on which of the people she likes will die.

The small band that makes up her group all seem to have the same allegiances, but have they??

Who is on her side, and who feeding the enemy information.

As the two stories unfold, the modern day investigation, and the second world war drama, identities are uncovered. Nobody is who they seem, and somebody is acting as puppet master, pulling all the strings, but to what end.

I have used no names, except for the present day Police Captain’s, in this review. There is a good reason for that. Some of the characters in this book have multiple identities, because they have worked for different countries and different agencies. To use any of the names might be a bit of a spoiler to the story.

And this is an excellent story that I would hate to spoil for anybody.

Amongst most new fiction this is a tomb of a book at nearly 500 pages. Every page is a pleasure to read. The pace of the book is frantic but very enjoyable.

I have loved WW II stories since I was a young teenager, and I may be being nostalgic, but reading this book has made me wish there were more being written today.

Pages: 480

Publisher: Bantam Press, Random House

Publishing Date: 9th August 2018

The Athens Assignment David Boyle

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I don’t usually do this, but I have held back on this review until I’d read the first book in the series, The Berlin Affair.

Why? Because from the start of The Athens Assignment I felt like I had started reading a really good story half way through. Both books together are just 240 pages, the length of a good book.

The Athens Affair is the story of Xanthe Schneider, a journalist for an American magazine, working in London in the early 1940’s at the height of the Blitz.

Xanthe is also a part time code breaker at Bletchley Park, and occasional agent working in occupied Europe.

The story is very much of the type I used to read as a young lad in the Commando Books or Warlord Comics, except these stories are written in an adult manner.

The Athens Assignment sees Xanthe returning to Europe, this time to Greece, in an attempt to help the British Forces locate and destroy the German battleship The Bismarck.

David Boyle makes a great job of taking actual events and weaving a fictional plot around them.

The invasions of Greece by the Germans, the threat posed by the huge battleship Bismarck, the frantic attempts by the British Forces to find and destroy it before it wreaks havoc on the North Atlantic convoys.

He uses names that all readers will recognise to give the story even more credence, with Alan Turing and Ian Fleming making appearances.

This book, or should I say both books, took me right back to the first thing that got me hooked on reading. Second World War fiction woven around actual events.

I started by saying I felt like I had come in half way through a story.

Well, I’ll end by saying I hope I finished the book at least two thirds of the way through a bigger one.

 

Pages: 119

Publishers: Endeavour

Available on Amazon