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4.4 out of 5 stars65
4.4 out of 5 stars
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I really liked how this crime novel morphs into very good historical fiction. Beyond that, author Allan Massie has created some terrific characters in this well written story, including protagonist Jean Lannes, Superintendent of the Police Judiciare of Bordeaux. The action swims in the political crosscurrents of the moment as the Germans occupy half of the country (including Bordeaux); the collaborationist Vichy Government administers the Central and Eastern interior of France; and the European sector of WWII is just beginning to heat up as the British recover from an early mauling and the Nazis turn on their erstwhile allies, the USSR. Loyalties are unstable and unpredictable and betrayals are common and often brutal.

Superintendent Lannes is trying to do his job as a senior cop while balancing family crises and competing political elements, including British and Free French who want his cooperation for a number of competing projects. Amidst this unwanted swirl of complications comes a murder case that seems to be of interest to all players--some who want a solution to the crime, but most who don't.

Author Massie deftly juggles a very large cast of characters that pulls the reader in from the first page. There's almost the pleasure of a soap opera in all of this, but the overlay of the war and the helplessness of people living under occupation or social restraint is clear and keeps it all on a serious plane. That doesn't lessen the enjoyment of the story by a whit. This is a fine, enthralling tale from a very good writer. The conclusion suggests that there will be a sequel. And it might be useful to note as well that there is a first episode to this story in "A Death in Bordeaux." On reflection, I wish that I had read the first installment before picking up "A Dark Summer...", but overall, the latter stands alone very well.
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on 24 October 2012
The first two books of this trilogy (this is the second) feature a magnificent recreation of what life must have been like in Bordeaux in the early days of the German occupation. In creating this portrait of crushed life in this troubled time, the author has set himself a hard task and succeeded well - informing the reader about all the conflicting strands of the largely defeatist French reaction to their defeat. The sense of place and period are on a par with Simenon's Maigret.

The protagonist is a senior policeman caught in conflicting loyalties and responsibilities trying to hang on to shreds of his integrity as he attempts to find resolution to a series of crimes whilst doing his best to protect those that elements in new regime seeks to destroy. The story only works if you have read the previous book, there is a large cast of characters who drift in and out of the narrative. The author keeps you turning the pages but the story itself is really an interlude setting up what will be the climax in the final (as yet unpublished) book.
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on 22 February 2013
Having met people who lived through the Occupation, one is aware of the uncertainties they experienced. None of those I have met, however, had a job as impossible as the police and judiciary. The conflicts between Commissaire Lannes' duty to France and that to the State, as well as his difficulties in protecting his family and friends, are very well brought out.

Massie's characters - quite a small cast compared with the tout-Paris Balzac builds in the Comédie Humaine - manage to create a credible city of Bordeaux: provincial, often stuck-up, sometimes brave and sometimes not so brave. And the credibility of these characters lends an air of authenticity to Lannes' self-examination.

One or two reviewers have complained that the pace is too slow; I disagree, in fact I rather wish Massie had decided to write a tetralogy - having dealt with the fall of France in the first volume, and got up to the invasion of Russia here, he could presumably have wrapped another two cases around the occupation of the Zone Libre and the Liberation.

I look forward, in any case, to the third volume.
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on 6 February 2013
I have read this book twice, in order to get a better understanding of some of the more complex characters, and the re-reading was rewarding. Indeed, when one reads this novel - even for the first time - one gets a very good insight into life in an occupied French city during the Second World War, and how the various personalities adjusted to changing circumstances. A really good read!
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on 13 July 2014
It's good to read a proper novel for a change - and Massie evokes Vichy France of 1941 so vividly that this is a (melancholy) joy to read. The murder is largely irrelevant, although it lends the story a certain structure; the main business, though, concerns the blackmail of a German officer and the awakenings in various ways of various of the younger generation of characters. The book ends with a sort of cliffhanger - and I was compelled to crack open the sequel (Cold Winter ...) immediately.
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on 18 November 2013
The political decay internally and externally (Nazi invasion) painted brilliantly in the lives of a cross-section of those involved. A proud, even sometimes, haughty, people, too susceptible to political extremes of left and right without a decisive blow from any of them - they angrily wear each other down to their meanest cores.
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on 7 August 2012
Unputdownable - if you love history and intrigue this is for you - the second in Massie's Bordeaux Vichy era sleuth novels. If you haven't read any Massie my tip would be to start with 'A Question of Loyalties' for a truly fantastic read to get you into the subject matter.
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on 17 June 2014
I read the three related Bordeax novels by Massie and felt that t I was reading the same story over and over without resolution. identical characters setting and plot, either too short to be a psychological study of the characters and politics of Vichy France or too long to be a romans policier. Frustrating because the very predictable plots have little resolution, and at eh same time the characters are interesting enough that one wants to know what happened. As a gay writer, Massie has something to say that works, but the books should be a edited to a single, longer novel. I'll read volume 4 reluctuantly, only to see if there is a plot outcome to the incestuous and slightly boring exploration of a corrupt family of aristos, but not if I can get a free synopsis.

Massie can write, no doubt about that, and I'm sure his sense of place and time is excellent but gee, his unfinished trilogy is far too long, self-repeating and tedious because of that,
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on 6 July 2014
It is so good to read a series of novels set around Bordeaux and Vichy France. I knew so little about this era. To have it elucidated by a writer with the literary skills of Allan Massie is a joy. It is also completely absorbing and hugely exciting. Highly highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 28 November 2013
To appreciate this tale fully it is helpful to have already read the same author's Death in Bordeaux. This begins where its predecessor ended. Many of the same characters appear and knowing the full back story is undeniably useful. They are recognisable people in a recognisable city.

The portrait of Vichy France is as convincing as before. There is a murderer to be identified and that is done satisfactorily. But the author's pre-eminent ability is to place his characters in situations that challenge their principles, situations where the choice may be only between bad and less bad. Ambivalence permeates the pages.

Allan Massie offers no comfortable conclusions but draws the reader inexorably towards the final book in the trilogy.
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