Category Archives: Crime

The Pact by Sharon Bolton

Trapeze | 202 (27 May) | 384p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book

The Pact by Sharon BoltonSix young students have just finished their A Levels at Oxford’s All Souls School. Each is remarkable, clever and attractive and each is predicted to have a glittering career ahead. But their lives are too safe, they dare each other and play dangerous games. One night it all goes horrifically wrong and it is then that they make the pact. 18-year-old Megan agrees to take the blame. That way they won’t all have their lives destroyed. But it comes as a great shock when Megan is given a sentence of 20 years and she serves every one of them. When she comes out, she is not the same. That is when the five friends, each successful with a great deal to lose, start to become very afraid indeed.

Sharon Bolton is, in my opinion, one of the very best writers of psychological thrillers and we’re lucky to have her. Time after time, she comes up with the most brilliant ideas and leads her readers down such a twisty path and at a rate of knots, too. The Pact is no different. It has a fantastic premise. We’ve had thrillers about groups of old friends before but not like this one. In my opinion, these people are all morally reprehensible and the majority of them know it. Arguably, what matters most to them is being caught, not doing the crime itself. Some may wriggle, and you can’t look away while they do, it’s so compelling, but they cannot escape the judgement of what they’ve done.

I loved the character of Megan. She is genuinely intriguing and odd. She makes each of her friends promise to do a big favour for her on her release from prison. These favours are not at all what you’d expect and add such an element of shock to the novel.

But, as you’d expect from a Sharon Bolton novel, there’s far more to it than that! It’s an engrossing and surprising read. I had a few small doubts about the ending but it still had a great impact on me. One of the things that I really enjoyed is the Oxford setting! This is my town and I recognised so many places, including the snug in one of my favourite north Oxford pubs. This is an Oxford that the author actually knows, which isn’t always the case, and it really adds to the mood of the novel, helping to make the six friends feel real, privileged, sinning and around us, excelling in their jobs (often in the public eye), hiding secrets. It all seems so timely….

Other reviews
Little Black Lies
Daisy in Chains
Dead Woman Walking
The Craftsman

The Split

Win by Harlan Coben

Century | 2021 (18 March) | 384p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book | Listen to the book

Win by Harlan CobenWindsor Horne Lockwood III is a man of privilege, a billionaire proud of his emotional stillness, his cold separation from people, except perhaps his friend Myron and maybe his biological daughter. He is the man who, when called, answers the phone with the simple command ‘Articulate’. But when a suitcase containing items stolen from his family years before is found next to the body of a murdered man, Win is mildly ruffled, or at least interested. These items had disappeared on the night twenty years ago that his uncle was murdered and his cousin, Patricia, was kidnapped, stolen away to be raped and tortured at the Hut of Horrors. And then there’s the identity of the murdered man to contend with – Ry Strauss, a hoarder and a recluse, believed to have been a member of a terrorist group in the 1970s, the Jane Street Six. The FBI believes there must be a link with the Hut of Horrors, with Win’s family. It seems only logical that Win should investigate.

Win is, I’m embarrassed to admit, the first Harlen Coben thriller I’ve read but many will know that Win is the sidekick of Coben’s popular detective Myron Bolitar and now he has a novel of his own. This makes Win a great starting point for new readers like me. Myron gets his mentions but this is most definitely Win’s book and it provides such a good entry into this world of Harlan Coben’s thrillers.

Win is quite a character and my feelings towards him are mixed. He’s undoubtedly arrogant, defying anyone to like him, and he has some extremely annoying and obnoxious habits, but the fact that others do seem drawn to him, to want to work for him quite apart from any financial gain, adds to his charisma. But what clinched it for me is Win’s increasing bewilderment surrounding his feelings for his ‘biological daughter’. I found myself liking him, perhaps not a huge amount, but certainly enough to be fascinated by him. He’s undoubtedly unusual and that made a refreshing change.

The big appeal of Win, though, is its extraordinary and fabulous plot. This is a great story with so many layers to it. It’s intricate, it’s involving, it’s terrifying and it is extremely gripping. It’s a puzzle that Win must dispassionately solve but it’s also a dark storm. I love that mix of neatness and chaos. It is brilliantly done by Harlan Coban and, on reading this, I could completely understand why so many people are hooked on his thrillers. I did find myself getting a little lost on occasion but I was happily swept away by it and loved how it all came together.

I listened to the audiobook, which is brilliantly read by Steven Weber. The novel is narrated by Win, which makes it a perfect fit for the audio format when told as well as Steven Weber tells it. He gives Win a voice that fits so well. I was engrossed. Despite the darkness of some of the content, this book is a lot of fun to listen to.

I’m really intrigued now to read earlier novels, to meet Myron for myself and to understand more about his relationship with Win and to find out more about Win himself. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite like him in a book before.

Blackout by Simon Scarrow

Headline | 2021 (18 March) | 432p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book

Blackout by Simon ScarrowBerlin in December 1939 is beginning to feel the effects of war. Shortages are becoming noticeable in the city’s most celebrated restaurants, much to the irritation of powerful men, but, far more menacingly, the newly-imposed nightly blackout has brought monsters out to play. When Gerda Korzeny, a former actress and celebrated beauty, is raped and murdered, the establishment takes note. Gerda was married to a top Nazi lawyer, a friend of Goebbels. The Gestapo call in Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke to investigate. There’s a reason Schenke has been selected – he’s not a member of the Nazi Party and is only tolerated for his glamorous past racing cars, an illustrious career that ended in a crash. If this case should uncover demons, then Schenke will make the perfect scapegoat. Then, as the nights draw even darker, another woman is murdered and the pressure on Schenke mounts.

Berlin is one of my favourite cities and I’ve always been fascinated by its past, especially during the 1930s when its reputation as a city of culture and hedonism comes up against the brick wall of the Nazis and fascism. Blackout is set at a particularly interesting time, during the first weeks of the Second World War when society seems bemused that Britain should have declared war on it. At this time war is mostly an inconvenience with the parties and dining out continuing, with the acceptance that eventually Britain and France will succumb to German military might, just like Poland. It’s intriguing to see how these men and women view the Nazis among them. Most have joined the Nazi Party and there is an acceptance and compliance, albeit one tinged with fear and regret. That’s for some, others positively thrive.

Crime fiction set in Nazi Berlin is not straightforward. The crimes of the regime are off the scale, so the author is faced with the challenge of making the reader feel that these murders matter. There also needs to be an empathy with Schenke. That issue is partly solved by giving him his glamorous past and also his angst with his Nazi controllers. He’s getting on with life as best as he can, loyal to Germany but uneasy with its fascism. There is some success. The murders are cruel – I actually couldn’t read some of this – and we do care for the women, especially Gerda. There is a whole social side to this, which goes beyond politics, with the lot of some women as trophy wives or mistresses. But I’m not sure I have the same empathy towards Schenke but that’s not so much to do with his issues towards the Nazis as with his attitude towards women, an attitude that seems prevalent through the novel.

The serial killer investigation part of the novel is bleak (admittedly I’m not much of a reader of serial killer crime fiction, whatever the setting) and I rather think that women have a hard time of it generally. Nobody seems to like them very much, including Horst Schenke, who, like other men in the novel, is very critical of the woman he professes to love. The women here are judged by their lovers. Gerda was and so, too, is Karin, Schenke’s girlfriend. He seems more interested in her important admiral uncle than her and he regularly reflects on her faults. Gerda is hit by her lover. I found this casual dislike of women quite difficult, quite apart from the violence done to them by the killer. It does, though, help build an atmosphere that this is a place doing great wrongs, an evil place and time. It is most definitely atmospheric and immersive – there is a fog of evil hanging over Berlin in December 1939, compounded by the blackout.

So, despite my issues with the novel, it is a powerful read and, if you enjoy serial killer thrillers, then this may well be for you. Its historical setting is vividly real and is undoubtedly one of the most evocative portrayals of Nazi Berlin that I’ve read. You can feel the cold horror of it as Nazism permeates itself into society and people’s lives. The killings don’t seem out of place and that makes them even more harrowing.

I can’t finish this review without saying how much I adore Simon Scarrow’s Cato and Macro novels!

Other reviews
The Blood Crows
Brothers in Blood
Britannia
Invictus
Day of the Caesars

The Blood of Rome
Traitors of Rome
The Emperor’s Exile
With T.J. Andrews – Invader

The Royal Secret by Andrew Taylor

HarperCollins | 2021 (29 April) | 480p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Royal Secret by Andrew TaylorIt is 1670 and the squalid and decaying court of Charles II is rife with intrigue as the unsteady Stuart crown is threatened by forces in the Netherlands and France. When Abbot, one of the agents working for the Secretary of State Lord Arlington, is found dead, his colleague James Marwood is sent to retrieve confidential papers from his home. It is clear that some are missing, not that this is an easy house to search – it is stinking with rats, poisoned and dying in agony. The trail leads Marwood to the house of Mr Fanshawe where Abbot’s wife and her child, secretive and frightened, now live, alongside the talk of the town, a lion.

Meanwhile, architect Cat Haskins has been hired to design a grand poultry house for the King’s sister in France, a project of great interest to the Dutchman Van Riebeck. Cat finds herself caught in the centre of a disturbing business, one that straddles the English Channel. Marwood can only watch on in alarm before he, too, steps into the fray.

The Royal Secret is the fifth novel to feature James Marwood and the woman who is frequently on his mind, Cat Haskins (once Lovett). You don’t need to have read the others but I would really encourage you to do so as these are among the best historical novels you could possibly read. Their depiction of Charles II’s court during the Great Fire and in the succeeding years is superb. This book does mark a new beginning of sorts because Cat is now independent again. She is working for herself as an architect and is viewed as a curiosity by the people who employ her to design elaborate houses for chickens – it’s all the rage and all rather strange. That’s even before you consider the logistics of owning a pet lion and placing him in your stables.

The plot of The Royal Secret is pleasingly complex and immerses both Marwood and Cat in a situation that endangers them both, while also threatening the security of the realm and a King who is constantly under attack by foreign powers and spies closer to hand. It all gets rather personal when Cat finds herself mixing with the wrong people and all Marwood can do is watch on anxiously. It’s a great story, brilliantly told by Andrew Taylor, and I recommend you dive in. You’ll soon catch up if you haven’t read any of the other books.

It’s the portrayal of Charles II’s court and government that I found the most riveting. It’s a hotbed of personal ambition and envy, sin and disease, corruption and a rather odd idealism surrounding the nature of the crown after years of all too recent civil war and Cromwell’s Commonwealth. Charles does make occasional charismatic appearances in this novel and in the others and they are always highlights. I absolutely love the way in which he is depicted. The men who work for him and conduct his business are far less appealing and Marwood is in the unfortunate position of being caught in the middle of most of them.

There is extra glamour in The Royal Secret thanks to some extremely enjoyable scenes set in France where Cat must wait on the pleasure of Madame, Charles II’s sister. Equally fun to read are the chapters set aboard ships. It’s hard to be refined and noble when in the grip of seasickness. Complementing these personal stories is the intrigue as secret messages move between countries and agents. There’s also a menace at work and he makes for an interesting villain.

The King’s Secret is clever, historically rich and detailed, and extremely engrossing. I can’t rave about it enough as this fabulous series gets even better. It tells a great story – compelling, tragic and thoroughly intriguing and, of course, it is deliciously steeped in the atmosphere of this secretive, diseased, decaying court of Charles II. The King’s Secret is quite possibly the best of the series, which is saying something.

Other reviews
The Ashes of London
The Fire Court

The King’s Evil
The Last Protector

Nightshade by E.S. Thomson

Constable | 2021 (15 April) | 368p | Review copy | Buy the book

Nightshade by ES ThomsonIt is 1851 and apothecary Jem Flockhart, with the help of close friend Will Quartermaine, decides to restore her physic garden. The project is intended as a distraction, a relaxation, for Will who is recuperating after serious illness. The garden was originally designed by Jem’s late mother, Catherine Underhill, a woman who was every bit as fascinated by poisons and medicinal plants as Jem. But Jem and Will’s digging disturbs the past when they uncover the remains of a body buried years before, clearly murdered, under a bush of deadly nightshade. Jem feels compelled to investigate, little knowing that these actions will ignite a new series of murders with each victim found with deadly nightshade berries in their mouths and each connected to the garden. Jem finds herself on a painfully personal journey as she descends into a world of poisons, exotic plants, memories, murder and madness.

It’s hard to believe that Nightshade is the fifth Jem Flockhart novel. I’ve read and loved these books from the beginning and this one is, I think, my favourite. You can read it without having read the others but I think in many ways it represents the fulfilment of the past. Jem’s character – a girl brought up as a boy and now living and working as a man – is fully evolved, we’ve witnessed the events that have shadowed her recent years, the murders of friends and colleagues, the establishment of her role as apothecary, part of a medical community, and an investigator of murder – it’s now time to learn more about her mysterious mother who died when Jem was an infant. Jem doesn’t like people getting too close to her past and to herself. Her gender is her biggest secret. But, in this case, there is nowhere to hide.

The captivating story mixes with the past as we read extracts from the journal kept by Catherine Underhill as she undertook a botanical expedition to India alongside some extraordinary women, completely out of step with society’s expectations for their gender. Once they are away from England, they leave that corseted world behind and enter another place, which is exotic, intoxicating. This is brilliantly evoked by E.S. Thomson and it complements perfectly Jem’s London, which is also heady with poisons, poverty, dirt, depravity, a place in which people can drive themselves mad. There are some incredible scenes where Jem and Will encounter the insane, secrets locked away within. The cast of characters in this novel are fabulous – each is fascinating and most are disturbing, even frightening.

Victorian London is vividly portrayed. The novel (and series) is full of historical medical and botanical knowledge. The book is enriched by its detail. At the heart of all of this, though, is Jem, who seems lost, vulnerable and at risk. There is only so much protection Will can provide. I urge you to read this superb series, with its ingenious tales of murder and murderers, and get to know Jem, one of my very favourite figures in historical fiction.

Other reviews
Beloved Poison
Dark Asylum
The Blood

Surgeons’ Hall

The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

Penguin | 2021 (29 April) | 432p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Whole Truth by Cara HunterMarina Fisher is one of Oxford’s most celebrated professors, leading the way in AI research as well as being a popular teacher. DI Adam Fawley isn’t alone in being surprised when Caleb Morgan, a rugby-playing student, accuses the professor of sexual assault. Morgan’s mother is also a powerful and influential woman. This unusual case, which soon attracts the attention of the media, is not going to be an easy one for Fawley and his team. Fawley has other matters on his mind. The so-called Roadside Rapist, whom Fawley put away, is about to be released. It’s not easy to forget the threats made against Fawley at the time. His wife Alex is heavily pregnant and she, too, has good reason to be afraid.

This series, of which The Whole Truth is the fifth, has become one of the very best that I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read the others, it doesn’t really matter but you’ll want to after reading this. I still have the first two to read and I’m off out this afternoon to buy them!

There are lots of reasons why this is such a good series but one of them is its Oxford location. It’s my hometown and, while it’s often the location of thankfully fictional murder, this is the Oxford that I know and love. I recognise buildings, streets, the feel of the place. The University plays its part but so, too, does the rest of the city. One novel actually got very close to home! Cara Hunter knows Oxford inside out and she puts this fabulous city on the page.

I love the style of The Whole Truth. Like the other novels, it’s clever and engaging. A range of perspectives are used, including the first-person viewpoint of Adam Fawley who, at times, even seems to address us. But we also spend time with members of his team and his wife, Alex. All of them seem preoccupied with something and I like that, it’s how life is. Mixing with these are extracts from all kinds of things – tweets, newspaper reports, police interviews, texts. I love it! There are no chapters, everything pushes on with immediacy. It’s extremely difficult to put down, not just because it’s so good but also because there are no pauses.

The Whole Truth has an excellent and involved plot and much of it is character-driven. I found the character of Marina Fisher, and the insight into her world, fascinating. This could well be my favourite of the series. To put it simply, I think it’s utterly brilliant.

Other reviews
No Way Out
All the Rage

The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood

HQ | 2021 (7 January) | 352p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book | Listen to the book

The Marlow Murder Club by Robert ThorogoodJudith Potts is 77 years old, lives in an old big house in Marlow on the Thames and likes nothing more than to swim in the river, shockingly nude, loving the thrill of her independence. But on one swim she witnesses the murder of a neighbour. She flees to the police but they don’t believe her. Judith, a genius crossword puzzle solver, decides to solve the crime for herself but, in so doing, she gathers around her a small group of other women, each with something they need to do: Suzie, a no-nonsense dog-walker, and Becks, the local Vicar’s wife, undoubtedly prim and proper. When another body turns up, they are joined by DS Tanika Malik, a detective who feels out of her depth with a serial killer to catch. Together they form the Marlow Murder Club. And watching them is the Marlow murderer.

Robert Thorogood is most well known for his Death in Paradise stories but now he turns his attention closer to home, to the elegant and rather posh town of Marlow, and the result is an unashamedly cosy crime novel that is an absolutely joy to read. I was initially suspicious as there are undoubtedly similarities to a certain other recent novel that I adored but it turns out that there’s more than enough room for more murder mysteries featuring puzzle-solving older people, especially women. As Agatha Christie would attest, no doubt.

The Marlow Murder Club has much going for it, not least the heady atmosphere of a summery Marlow, with its art galleries, tea shops and boaters. It all feels over-rich, above the law, the perfect setting for a murder. The scene is set so well. The deliciously complex and involved plot fits into this world perfectly – not that I’m going to say anything about that.

But it’s Judith and her friends who steal the show. Judith is fabulous. I listened to the audiobook, which is brilliantly read by Nicolette McKenzie, and she does a fantastic job of bringing these women to life. Each of the women in the novel has another side to her but Judith’s story in particular is really intriguing and lovingly revealed by an author who clearly cares for her. There are stereotypes here and Robert Thorogood has fun playing with them while enjoying them for their own sake. There is so much in this one to revel in and I can’t wait to see Judith and her newly discovered friends return.

The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan

HQ | 2021 (15 April) | 320p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Wild Girls by Phoebe MorganIt’s been a long time since these four women – Grace, Felicity, Alice and Hannah – would have thought of themselves as best friends. They grew up together, running amok as a gang of wild girls, and that turned into close friendships as adults. Until it all went wrong and now each must deal with feelings of guilt, distrust and regret. It’s a surprise, then, when Grace, Alice and Hannah receive a message from Felicity inviting them to a party in a luxury lodge in Botswana, an all expenses paid dream holiday. Each of these women face different circumstances in their lives but perhaps getting away from home for a while is what they need? Against their better judgement, they each make the trip to join Felicity in Botswana. They would have been better off listening to those instincts.

I really enjoy Phoebe Morgan’s stand alone thrillers and I particularly couldn’t wait for The Wild Girls. I travelled around Botswana many years ago and my memories of it are vivid. Its the perfect setting for a mystery novel – a beautiful, remote location, dangers outside, little chance of help. Perfect. I must say, though, that it seems an awfully long way to go just for a long weekend!

I love the way in which the mystery builds. I found it engrossing and read half of the novel in just one sitting. The chapters move between the perspectives of Grace, Alice and Hannah and I was soon interested in their different lives. There are hints of things going on in the background and in the past, which are very intriguing and disturbing. These women feel multi-dimensional. Phoebe Morgan is very good at creating believable characters with a backstory you want to learn about.

The scenes set when the three women arrive at the lodge are thoroughly compelling as the reader tries to second guess the characters with what on earth is going on. I didn’t find the second half as engrossing, possibly and ironically because the first half is so sensational! The past and the present begin to merge together. I think the greatest fun to be had is in the sheer tantaslising mystery of the first half, which is very well done indeed.

The Wild Girls is such a fun, fast thriller, which also benefits from being set in such an unusual and very enticing location. It’s therefore escapist as well as thrilling and allows the mind to travel even if the rest of us can’t for now.

Other reviews
The Girl Next Door
The Babysitter

When I was Ten by Fiona Cummins

Macmillan | 2021 (15 April) | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book

When I Was Ten by Fiona CumminsThe Carter family seemed to everyone else to be living an idyllic life in their large beautiful house on the top of a hill. The two little Carter girls seemed happy as did their father, the village doctor, and mother. Then, in 1997, one of the sisters committed an unimaginable act. She murdered her parents with a pair of scissors and ten-year-old Sara is charged with their murder – the watching world is absolutely horrified – and is locked away until she was 18 while the other sister is given a new identity. Twenty years after the crime it is all now coming out as Catherine Allen watches the news and sees her sister on it talking about the murder of their parents. Their neighbour and friend all those years ago, Brinley, is now a journalist after the big story and it looks as though now she might have it. More lives than one will be altered forever as the revelations flow.

I am a huge fan of Fiona Cummins. She’s one of those writers whose books I will always read and as soon as possible. I especially loved The Neighbour and I’ve been looking forward to what would follow it. When I was Ten, another entirely stand alone thriller, was well worth the wait.

The novel tackles a subject that is not an easy one – the abuse of a child that is so severe, so calculatedly evil, that it leads to that child murdering her parents. The narrative moves backwards and forwards through time so that we witness what the sisters went through and how this pulled them together until the murder divided them forever as prison took one and a new identity claimed the other. We see what this has done to Catherine Allen, who has created a new life, knowing that now everything will change as the past is awoken and others, such as the media or a cabinet minister, begin to feed on it for their own gain. Society has judged the sisters who have kept their secrets. Can Brinley help or will she destroy them?

The thread featuring the cabinet minister is perhaps a distraction, although I did enjoy it, but the focus here is on lives destroyed and altered and, as the vultures circle, it builds into a thoroughly engrossing and compelling read as we learn more and more about the past and about the present. Fiona Cummins is a clever writer. Her stories don’t develop as you’d expect while still emotionally involving the reader in their characters. So we have the best of both worlds – an exciting psychological and crime thriller as well as an insightful and empathetic portrayal of a terrible situation that destroys lives while also inciting a judgemental society’s salacious interest.

The Neighbour was one of my top 20 books of 2019 and there is every chance that When I Was Ten will do as well in 2021. It is most certainly a powerful and haunting depiction of what happens when a child kills and what drove her to it.

Other reviews
Rattle
The Collector
The Neighbour

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

Allison & Busby | 2021 (23 March) | 350p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline WinspearThe Consequences of Fear is the 16th novel in Jacqueline Winspear’s much loved and wonderful series featuring Maisie Dobbs, a well-to-do investigator and secret agent in London before and during World War Two. You don’t need to have read all or any of the series to enjoy this latest addition to it (it would even serve as a good introduction) but, if you have, you’ll be as emotionally invested in Maisie as I am and that will add a certain special something to your appreciation of it. I haven’t read them all yet. I’ve read the last few and a couple of the earlier ones and I can thoroughly recommend them and I’m looking forward to catching up with the others. Maisie is definitely a person worth knowing, as is her very dependable and invaluable assistant Billy.

It is October 1941 and bombs continue to fall on London. It is a scarred and pitted city, full of deserted or destroyed buildings. The war effort is everything with many trying to do their bit, while others try and hold things together, still remembering the horrors of the Great War. When young Freddie Hackett, a runner who carries government messages across London, witnesses a murder in a doorway, nobody believes him. But Maisie Dobbs does.

Maisie does everything she can to help Freddie and his family, in tandem with the overstretched police, while continuing in her other job working with a secret government department to train men and women to go undercover in occupied France to work with the Resistance. The burden of this role is almost overpowering for Maisie and is due to become even more so. Maisie is soon to learn that the secrets of the last war remain as dangerous as ever while the current war is reaching a critical stage.

This is a fantastic series and I read The Consequences of Fear as soon as I could. I’m so glad I did as I think this novel could well be my favourite. It feels like a significant book in the series. Maisie’s family life seems to be settling down, causing her to re-evaluate her life and the significance of her friendships. Maisie’s friends play an important role in the novel, as do women in general. She might work for and with men but Maisie is well aware of how special these women are – women who parachute into France to work for the Resistance as radio operators (a role with an average life span of only six weeks), women spies, army drivers, mothers, daughters, friends. I love this circle that surrounds Maisie.

But we can’t forget Billy, Maisie’s assistant, who is completely wonderful. Maisie is, not to put too fine a point on it, posh. She has money to spare and there’s a philanthropic side to her. There’s a formality to her dealings with those who work for her, even if she is very happy to get her hands dirty. Billy can’t really be called a friend but I think Maisie would certainly regard him as family. The two of them together follow their case across London and I love the detail of this – the pubs they visit to question landlords, the deserted houses, the trains, the dark streets, the river. There is a deeply poignant scene near the beginning with the river. This is a city under attack, people are suffering. While it brings out the best in some, it certainly doesn’t in others. Freddie, just a child, bears the weight of this.

I loved spending time with Maisie again. I hoped for the best for her throughout and I worried with her when she felt responsible for the women being sent into France. I enjoy how she mixes with hard-drinking government men and stressed detectives. She straddles male and female wartime experiences. Above all else, Maisie and Billy are immensely likeable, as are Maisie’s friends and family. I can’t wait to see them all again.

Other review
The American Agent