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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sold, Temperate WWII Espionage Novel, 25 Jan 2005
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Time without Shadows (Paperback)
Split between World War II and the late '80s, this semi-thriller begins with the announcement of the death of at least one of its heroes. At the end of a tedious session of Parliament, a relatively obscure member asks a question about a betrayed Special Operations Executive resistance operation in occupied France in 1943. An intelligence officer named Chapman is assigned the task of looking into the matter and the book turns back in time to 1940. There, the reader meets Philip Maclean, a young painter living in France when the Germans invade. He escapes to England, but decides to return as a spy in order to be closer to his love, a stereotypically beautiful girl next door. At the same time, a Frenchman named Masson is also introduced. A combination of con-artist, salesman, and Walter Mitty, he's a slimy character whose priority is looking out for number one. He too escapes to England, and is installed as an important cog in supplying Maclean's network. Allbeury does an excellent job quietly showing how Maclean develops relationships with resistance members in a village an hour outside Paris, and slowly are carefully builds his network. When the network goes active, it's quickly rounded up and Maclean is sent with others to Auschwitz, where he dies, as foreshadowed in the prologue.
Back in the present day, Chapman starts digging into what happened to the old network, and spends time talking to Maclean's widowed love, and various other survivors. As he shuttles around Europe, it quickly becomes clear that Masson is at the center of the mystery of what happened. It's somewhat of a "Third Man" situation-Masson is reported dead, but is he? Masson was maybe a collaborator with the Germans, or was he? The twist is that it starts to seem as if the betrayal of the network came not just from within, but from above... The description of Maclean's establishing and running his network is fascinating, but ultimately, much of the intrigue gets bogged down in interdepartmental rivalries. Fortunately, both the wartime and contemporary sections are full of characters he reader cares about (although a subplot about Chapman's domestic situation feels very forced and tacked on). A solid, temperate espionage novel for those who like such things.
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A Time Without Shadows
A Time Without Shadows by Ted Allbeury
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