Top positive review
18 people found this helpful
A choice of betrayals - Occupied France 1941
on 27 August 2012
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.