Top critical review
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A vivid and riveting novel that ultimately disappoints
on 6 October 1999
I was riveted almost to the end of this book by the complex story of greed, betrayal and brutality set against a beautifully evoked backcloth of Salazar's Portugal in the second world war. However, the complementary part of the plot, which is set in present day Lisbon and which links up with this past, was never so compelling, and I had lost interest by the end as contrivance and coincidence multiplied. Neither were the 1990s characters as brilliantly drawn as their wartime counterparts. My feeling was that Wilson had overstretched himself by working in the contemporary angle and that the book would have been more successful without this. All the same I would recommend this novel both for the vivid descriptions of the horrific - reminiscent of Michael Dibdin at his best - and for the sure grasp of history coupled with a deep understanding of the beautiful but seedy city of Lisbon.