Tag Archives: Thriller

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 Castaways by Lucy Clarke

HarperCollins | 2021 (18 March) | 400p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book

The Castaways by Lucy ClarkeSisters Lori and Erin have always been close, supporting each other through the loss of their mother, living together, holding each other up. When Lori’s marriage ends very unhappily, she books a dream holiday island-hopping in Fiji for herself and Erin. But one evening in the hotel emotions pour out and the sisters fight. When Lori flies to another island the next day, she’s on her own. Erin refuses to go with her. So when the small plane vanishes, Erin is tormented by memories of their last words to one another. Two years later, the pilot is discovered in Fiji, living under an alias. Erin heads back to Fiji, to the same hotel, determined to discover the truth.

The Castaways has a fantastic premise, not to mention an exotic tempting location, and it is such a fun read. The novel’s narrative is divided between ‘Erin now’ and ‘Lori then’ as we witness what happened aboard the plane and during its immediate aftermath and in the time that has passed as Erin tries to discover the truth and deal with her guilt. While we know a little more than Erin due to the book’s structure, the big mystery of those missing two years looms over the novel and I was desperate to know what happened.

The crash scene makes for traumatic reading and I have now started to rethink my dream holiday of island hopping in Fiji… Lori’s tale in the aftermath of the crash is riveting and dramatic while Erin must untangle a mystery. Both elements are compelling. The weaving together of past and present works well and the novel is very atmospheric as the two sisters, in their very different environments, reflect on their relationship, their dependence on one another and being apart. It is poignant and very sad at times.

While I thought that the conclusion fell a little short, I enjoyed The Castaways very much and read it in a day, something that I don’t do too much these days. It is very hard to put down.

Savage Road by Chris Hauty

Simon & Schuster | 2021 (21 January) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book

Savage Road by Chris HautySavage Road is a political thriller that follows hot on the heels of its predecessor, the excellent Deep State. It stands alone perfectly well but it completely spoils the shocks of Deep State. Personally, I’d recommend reading them in order, not least because Deep State is one of the best political thrillers I’ve ever read and made me gasp out loud in shock on the bus more than once! With that warning out of the way, on with the review….

Hayley Chill is now a full-time staffer at the White House, having finished her rather eventful time as an intern. But those with the very, very highest clearance know that Hayley is more than that. She works for the ‘Deep State’, the power that really controls the United States, and her mission is to steer the Russian mole in the White House, now turned double agent, Richard Monroe, the President of the United States. And these are dangerous times. The cold war has gone cyber with attacks escalating between the two countries and the President is being pushed towards war. With the clock ticking, Hayley must discover the origin of the cyber attacks and stop them before it is too late.

Deep State was such a reading highlight of 2020 and I did wonder how on earth Chris Hauty could follow it. The answer is that he does a very good job indeed and that is due in large part to his fantastic creation of Hayley Chill and the situation which has placed a traitor in the Oval Office. I love Hayley. She is a diamond with rough edges, largely underestimated and misunderstood as a redneck, a former soldier and boxer, fiercely loyal and courageous, stubborn and relentless, incorruptible. Hayley Chill is brilliant. And she contrasts in every way with Richard Monroe. The relationship between these two is unlike any other I’ve read in a political thriller. The tension is incredible.

There are shocks in Savage Road that challenge those in Deep State. It’s staggering how Chris Hauty can do this time after time! You never know what will happen in these novels. The plotting in Savage Road is second to none.

I can say no more as you need to discover what’s going on here for yourself but it seems like such a good time to read a political thriller. I read it during the last days of the Trump administration. No longer do I think that the events described by Chis Hauty are impossible, while nothing about the activity of spies would surprise me. And yet these books do just that! And, just as with Deep State, Savage Road has left me wanting more.

Other review
Deep State

Slough House by Mick Herron

John Murray | 2021 (4 February) | 320p | review copy | Buy the book

Slough House by Mick HerronWe have reached the seventh novel in this truly brilliant series by the genius that is Mick Herron. If you haven’t read the others (and I can definitely recommend the audiobooks read by Sean Barrett if you want to catch up), then Slough House does stand up very well on its own but much of its impact does come from having met before these extraordinary inhabitants of Slough House. Known as the Slow Horses, these men and women have been cut adrift from M15 for the worst of reasons and Slough House is where they go to fester, under the disturbing control (or manipulation) of Jackson Lamb, a man you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley even if he were able to squeeze down it.

Relations between the secret service agencies of Britain and Russia are hotting up – or should that be colding down? – and Jackson Lamb and his ‘team’ of spy rejects are caught in the middle. But, should ‘Princess’ Diana Taverner, now M of M15, assume that they are a spent force then she couldn’t be more wrong. They still have tricks up their sleeves. The Slow Horses are under attack again, with their number in severe risk of reducing further but, incredibly, one former colleague appears to be back from the dead, albeit probably temporarily. It’s time to fight back.

The Slough House series of books are must reads if you have any interest at all in contemporary spy novels and, incredible as it is to say as they are all excellent, this latest novel is in my opinion the best of the series. One reason for this is that the characters and the building of Slough House itself are now well established. I love how the novels begin with a tour of the House by our omnipresent narrator. These sections always remind me of Bleak House and set the stage every bit as well. These novels reek with the corrupt atmosphere of Slough House – the cigarette smoke, the mess, the flatulence of Jackson Lamb, the booze, misery, guilt, dejection and failure. All is contrasted with the refined and clean rooms of the M15 headquarters in Regents Park. But in Slough House we become more aware than ever that rot can be found in that location as well – corruption, vice and the old boy’s network. This is a world where an Etonian Prime Minister is trying to hold everything together and in which ‘Yellow Vests’ march on the streets, ugly and extreme.

Despite all of the problems and power struggles at home, there is a war on between the spies of the UK and Russia, triggered by the novichok poisoning that has left a British citizen dead. This is a fascinating starting point for the novel and the plot is involved, complex and gripping throughout.

We meet old ‘friends’ in Slough House, each of whom is dealing with their own problems, addictions, mistakes and griefs. Roddy Ho is as abhorrent (and hysterical) as ever but we spend much of the time with River, a man whose very blood is steeped in the secret service. We are involved with these people. Even Jackson Lamb excels himself (his potential for violence has never been more coldly shocking). But we retain an emotional investment in them. That’s the extraordinary thing.

Mick Herron is a brilliant spy writer. He has created an incredible cast of men and women, both the rejects and the powerful. His portrayal of Diana Taverner is particularly well developed in Slough House and I enjoyed her appearances – especially the scenes between Diana and Lamb. The books are witty and chillingly cool and atmospheric, as the reader strives to reach out to characters in very real distress. And danger. A great deal of danger. As always, I was left wanting more. These novels are essential reading.

Other reviews
London Rules
Joe Country

The Two Lost Mountains by Matthew Reilly

Orion | 2021 (21 January) | 432p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Two Lost Mountains by Matthew ReillyJack West Jr is back! The Two Lost Mountains is the penultimate novel in Matthew Reilly’s corking series of thrillers in which Jack West Jr and his team must fulfil a sequence of ancient challenges in order to save the planet, the world, everything, from extinction. If, like me, you’ve been putting these books to the top of your reading pile for a fair few years now, then you don’t need me to tell you how good they are and how close we’re all getting to the end! But, if you haven’t read them before, then you won’t want to start with this one, the sixth, you’ll want to go back to Seven Ancient Wonders, which takes the story back to its beginning about twenty years ago. A lot has happened since then. A lot!

The Two Lost Mountains is not an easy book to review because, as you may well know, the previous book The Three Secret Cities (yes, the number countdown continues) ended at quite a crucial point and I don’t want to give anything away. Suffice to say, that this latest adventure picks up where the other one ends – we land on our feet and we’re off and running again.

Our heroes, and our baddies (and they are brilliant villains in these books – they’re evil on both a human and mythological scale, which I really enjoy) are focused. They know what they have to do before the final challenge. The sides are all declared and they’re desperate to beat each other to be the first to the Labyrinth, the goal of this novel. The main aim of these groups is, of course, to beat Jack and his team. There’s a sense that they just might do it. Jack’s team isn’t the size it used to be and you can bet that events in this book might shrink it further. You’re going to have to hang on when you read this. And there’s a new villain! Someone who wants nothing more than to welcome annihilation and die in a blaze of glory – how do you fight someone like that?

The adventures are breathless to read! I love the challenges in these books. The tension is enormous. The locations are great. The mix of thriller, classical history and mythology, disaster novel is so good. I love the references to ancient Egyptian and Greek history and legend. As you’d expect in an adventure such as this, archaeological remains do take rather a battering (to put it mildly). The potential destruction of the Earth is now closer than ever and so it’s fitting that we begin to see its impact on the wider world. It’s felt in these pages and in cities across the globe. I also love the experience of reading these books, with their diagrams, maps and charts. They’re so exciting!

At the heart of the novel is Jack West Jr, a man with so many responsibilities, who is now facing up to the passing years, and is more protective than ever of the younger people in his care. I really like Jack. I’m not sure he’s going to survive all this. His team members all leave messages for the others, to be read out in case they should die. We’ve read a few of them over the years. I worry that we’ll read Jack’s.

Matthew Reilly has written some fabulous thrillers over the years, including my favourite thriller of all time – Ice Station (the first novel to feature the beloved Scarecrow). I can’t wait for ‘The One Thingummy’ that will complete the Jack West Jr series and I also can’t wait for whatever will follow it.

Other reviews
Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves
The Tournament
The Great Zoo of China
The Four Legendary Kingdoms (Jack West 4)

The Three Secret Kingdoms (Jack West 5)

Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Headline | 2020 (21 January) | 432p | Review copy | Buy the book

Shiver by Allie ReynoldsFive old friends arrive in the remote French ski resort of Le Rocher for a reunion. Their past together had been a glorious one – they were professional snowboarders from more than one country, competing against one another in the exhilarating and dangerous Half Pipe competition. But that was ten years ago and it had ended in tragedy in this very place. Millie had been in two minds about whether to come, but the invitation had come from Curtis, a man she had always had feelings for, even though she had had a relationship with another of the five. And she knows that the reunion must have particular meaning for Curtis. His sister Saskia had died here all those years ago, her body never found, lost within the glacier. But Curtis, Millie learns, is there because of her. His invitation had come from Millie. And now they all find themselves in an isolated, empty resort and that’s when the games begin.

I absolutely adored Shiver! There has been a run recently of mysteries set in chalets and ski resorts and I cannot get enough of them. Shiver is the latest and it is fabulous. I’m a huge fan of ski sports, including the Half Pipe (from the warmth and comfort of my chair), and I am amazed by the skill and bravery of the athletes. It is an absolutely terrifying sport and this book gives real insight into the character of extreme sports and those who do it. All five are larger than life personalities. They have to be to do this thing. And this means that their relationships are intense, immediate and alive. I can’t say that I liked all of these people but I was mesmerised by them.

The location is fantastic. The action takes place off-season but Le Rocher is one of those places where ski sports can take place at any time due to the glacier, but what a dangerous place that is with its deep, hidden crevices. This means that the hotel is empty. The friends find no staff. It’s a frightening place, even before it all sets off. But Millie, Curtis, Brent, Dale and Heather still find themselves come alive in this place, reminded of those days ten years ago. Their lives are nothing like that now and they can reclaim some of that excitement from the past. I loved that sense of adventure and resilience and mourned with them the passing of the years and their youth. But then there is a real shift as they realise the danger they are in. It’s hugely exciting and a real pageturner.

This is another of those ‘locked room’ mysteries. They work so well in remote wintry settings and it’s very effective here. It’s dangerous outside but perhaps even more so inside. The tension and sense of danger builds further with the parallel story of the tragic events from ten years ago, which are told from Millie’s perspective. Millie is struggling to reach the snowboarding levels of Brent, Curtis and Saskia and there is a very real rivalry between Saskia and Millie as they compete for places in the British snowboarding team. Their rivalry becomes a monster but it is also complicated by some intense and complicated feelings. I love how Allie Reynolds brings the young Millie to life. She feels very real. And then there’s Saskia.

Allie Reynolds clearly knows a great deal about the snowboarding world and this fills the novel, giving it a satisfying air of authenticity and insight. The danger of this sport! I knew it was dangerous but I had no idea. That’s one side of the very real appeal of this novel. The other is the fantastic building of tension, rivalry, and danger matched by the eerie location and the sinister mood. And yet there’s a beauty here – the landscape, the glorious jumps of the snowboarders in the half pipe and the pure exuberance of youth, a time that is destroyed. What perfect reading this is for these cold winter nights.

There are some absolutely gorgeous hardback editions of this on the way so do look out for one of those.

The Stasi Game by David Young

Zaffre | 2020 (31 December) | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Stasi Game by David YoungThe Stasi Game is the sixth and very possibly final novel in David Young’s superb series featuring DDR detective Karin Müller and her assistant Werner Tilsner. While you could certainly enjoy this novel as a stand alone read, I heartily recommend that you read the others first. Karin’s story, and Werner’s, is a compelling one and this is in many ways its conclusion, making it all the more powerful if, like me, you have become so fond of Karin over the years.

East Germany, 1982. Three years have passed since the events of Stasi Winter. Karin Müller and Werner Tilner are in disgrace, demoted and re-housed. Karin might work for the People’s Police but she’s been left in no doubt that it’s the Stasi who are controlling her career and her life. And now they choose to send her and Werner to Dresden where the body of a man has been found encased in concrete. The Stasi are taking a keen interest in the case and Karin becomes increasingly suspicious about why that might be so.

In a parallel story beginning in the 1930s, an English boy Arnold Southwick meets Lotti Rolf in Dresden while on holiday. The two become pen pals as both experience the horrors of war in the bombed cities of Hull and Dresden. Through Lottie’s eyes, we’re taken back to the fire storm that was Dresden in February 1945.

I am a huge fan of this series. Its setting in Communist East Germany is fascinating and brilliantly evoked by David Young, who clearly knows his stuff and puts it across so well. In The Stasi Game, as with others in the series, we’re also reminded of the legacy of World War Two on the DDR. I enjoyed the movement between the two eras and the surprising and engrossing development of the story. The scenes depicting the bombing of Dresden are truly powerful and shocking. With chapters set before, during and after the bombing, Dresden becomes a significant character in the novel in its own right.

The plot of The Stasi Game is fantastic, possibly my favourite of the series, and there are some changes in the relationships between Karin, Werner and with Jäger of the Stasi. I have always enjoyed the character of Jäger, the way that he hovers between good and evil, and he’s particularly good in this one. There is a strong sense that each has reached their limit, that something has to give, and that gives an irresistible tension to the book. We know how strongly Karin believed in the DDR and its values. Karin’s faith is challenged here stronger than ever. She knows now better than anyone what the Stasi are capable of. And we’ve reached the early 80s so time is running out for the regime.

All good things must come to an end but it’s always a shame when they do. I will miss my annual immersion in this world and with these characters but, if this is the end, it ends perfectly, it really does. If you haven’t yet read these books then now is the time.

Other reviews
Stasi Child
Stasi Wolf
A Darker State

Stasi 77
Guest post on the historical background of Stasi 77
Stasi Winter

The Demon Club by Scott Mariani

Avon | 2020 (26 November) | 416p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Demon Club by Scott MarianiBen Hope is back! My all-time favourite action hero returns in his twenty-second adventure and this is cause for celebration indeed. As I always say when reviewing these books, they all stand alone. You can jump into the series at any time you wish, with any of the novels that particularly appeals. They take us to all parts of the world, on the trail of all kinds of baddies, in search of artefacts, or, as is more likely the case these days, to right wrongs, to protect the innocent and for vengeance. If you have read the series in its glorious entirety as I have then you will understand how much I love Ben Hope and how glad I am that he’s back.

Life is looking good for Ben. He may even be falling in love (again) and spends much of his time travelling between his home and workplace of Le Val in France and the home of Grace in the Scottish Highlands. One day a stranger sits down beside Ben on the plane and tells him that if he doesn’t kill Ben’s former SAS colleague Wolf then Grace will be killed. Ben is given evidence that leaves him in no doubt that this man is serious. But, when Ben catches up with Wolf, the truth emerges and both men must take on the Pandemonium Club, a sinister, demonic club whose members can be found at the very heart of the British establishment. Time is running out. Ben must destroy these monsters or die in the attempt.

This is a fantastic story and it puts The Demon Club high among my list of favourites in the series. It’s never too hard to believe that there’s devilry and evil in government and the establishment so that adds something rather pleasing to it all. The action never lets up and neither does the tension. The baddies are worthy of Ben and once more it’s never that certain to us that Ben will actually survive. Ben is an incredible hero but there’s always a sense that he may have used up all of his spare lives. He senses it, too. The end could come at any time and he’s driven to fight evil until the very end. Ben is a killer, and we are certainly made aware of it in this book as he makes some impossible decisions, but, as his surname suggests, there is something significant and almost legendary about his fight for good.

In The Demon Club we have the added appeal of (almost) twice the charisma, thanks to Wolf. Scott Mariani is a master of creating action heroes and he’s done it again here. It’s also good to see Tuesday and Jeff making more of an appearance in this adventure. You can always expect to meet old friends in these novels as Ben calls out for help from those he fought alongside years before.

It’s also good to see that Ben does less of the driving this time around, a relief, no doubt, for any car rental companies.

This is a fantastic series and The Demon Club is a fine addition to it. I could not put it down. We are so luck to have two of them a year – to have two novels from a series that I adore so much during this challenging, awful year is priceless. I long to see Ben again, hopefully next time it will be in happier times. But however it is I can’t wait to see him.

Other reviews
Ben Hope 7: The Sacred Sword
Ben Hope 8: The Armada Legacy
Ben Hope 9: The Nemesis Program
Ben Hope 10: The Forgotten Holocaust
Ben Hope 11: The Martyr’s Curse
Ben Hope 12: The Cassandra Sanction
Ben Hope 13: Star of Africa
Ben Hope 14: The Devil’s Kingdom
Ben Hope 15: The Babylon Idol
Ben Hope 16: The Bach Manuscript
Ben Hope 17: The Moscow Cipher
Ben Hope 18: The Rebel’s Revenge
Ben Hope 19: Valley of Death
Ben Hope 20: House of War
Ben Hope 21: The Pretender’s Gold

V2 by Robert Harris

Hutchinson | 2020 (17 September) | 312p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book

V2 by Robert HarrisIt is November 1944 and V2 rockets rain down on London. They arrive silently, no-one knows where they will hit but when they do the devastation is sudden, terrifying and deadly. Germany is in retreat but now every resource they have, whether slave or fuel, is being put into the production of these rockets, which are then launched from moving sites in occupied Holland on the cities of London and Antwerp. Rudi Graf is a leading German rocket engineer. His dream had been to design and propel rockets to the Moon but his research was hijacked when Hitler came to power. Now he launches rockets to kill civilians, urged on by his Nazi commanders and propagandists. In this cold, bleak seaside town, Rudi becomes increasingly disillusioned.

Kay Calton-Walsh is a young intelligence officer in the WAAF. It is her job to try and detect launch sites from aerial photographs. She’s good at her job and she has also experienced herself the horrors of a V2 strike. When she gets the chance to do even more for the war effort she leaps at it. She joins a team of WAAFs in Belgium. Their task is to observe launches and calculate their origin. The mathematics is difficult, incredibly pressured and the equations must be done quickly. It’s impossible to forget that behind the numbers, lives are at stake and that every second counts.

Robert Harris is one of my very favourite authors. His books vary enormously – ancient Rome, the Vatican conclave, World War 2, an alternate future, 19th century France, and so on – but they are all expertly constructed, ingenious thrillers. The tension and drama can be found in strangely quiet moments, within enormously intelligent individuals who must face a significant challenge, whether that’s an engineer trying to predict the eruption of Vesuvius in Pompeii or a civil servant’s attempts to broker his own deal at Munich in 1939. These are places with secrets, where much can be underhand, and the stakes are enormous. In Rudi Graf we have another of these figures and he is a fascinating man who has an uneasy relationship with the rocket that he has created as well as with the people around him. He is very alone.

This is a novel in which one side faces off against another, where every act has a consequence. There are some fantastic, coldly horrifying sequences in which we follow a rocket through those four minutes from launch to target. The author takes us outside of the story to tell us how many people each rocket injures and kills. The facts are engrossing but they’re made real by the experiences of Kay Calton-Walsh. She is a busy young woman, liberated by war into being useful, with a role that peace would deny her. She also loves unwisely. But her focus is on stopping these rockets. I loved the chapters set in Belgium. How strange it must have been for the locals to have one army replaced by another in their town. There is tension in the novel from the rockets but it also comes from the relationship between the WAAFs and the local villagers.

V2 is a relatively short novel and we’re told it was written quickly through lockdown. It does have the feel of a novel written with urgency. It is true I would have liked it to have been longer. I would have liked more but what there is, is fantastic. The characterisation is spot on and the locations are richly evoked, especially the launch sites, which were lethal, manned by expendable, tired men, driven on by absurd targets who often became the victims of their own rockets. I’m fascinated by this subject – my grandfather went behind enemy lines to spy on V2 rocket production – and Robert Harris is the perfect writer to convey the dread and terror of these weapons while also respecting the science behind them. It’s an extremely tense thriller – rockets are launched time after time, day after day. They must be stopped.

I can’t wait for the next Robert Harris novel. It could be about anything. It might surprise me as much as The Second Sleep did. Whatever it is, I know I’ll be enthralled. His novel Pompeii remains my favourite historical novel. If you haven’t read it, read it!

Other reviews
An Officer and a Spy
Dictator
Conclave
Munich
The Second Sleep