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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 1 December 2013
Well written, good historical factual background. However, I very much doubt, even with Fleming's influence, that an officer would be privy to such secrets with a relative serving in the U Boat arm of the Kriegesmarine - the very service that he is working against.
Nevertheless a good read. Recommended.
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"Heavy pools of smoke swirled beneath the droplights like winter smog. The atmosphere was always impossibly thick in the Tracking Room. Everyone smoked ..." - from THE INTERROGATOR

"There was a Sunday church hush in the Tracking Room ... The First Sea Lord was standing at the plot. His entourage was stirring the smoke into a restless pea-souper that lent mystery and a strange urgency to every small movement." - from THE INTERROGATOR

As THE INTERROGATOR begins, Douglas Lindsay, First Lieutenant of the destroyer HMS Culloden on convoy duty in the North Atlantic in September 1940, has his ship sunk out from under him by a German submarine. The book then fast-forwards to March 1941, by which time Lindsay is an interrogator with Naval Intelligence, and his job is to interrogate captured U-boat crewmen.

Douglas is convinced that the Germans have broken British naval codes, a belief that doesn't endear him to his superiors, especially when, against orders, he questions German prisoners about their success at having broken such encryption. One high-ranking POW, Kapitän zur See Jürgen Mohr, becomes his chief antagonist and nemesis, and it is around this pair's duel of wits that THE INTERROGATOR revolves.

For me, the main attraction of this novel by Andrew Williams was the insight it gave, however superficially, into the Admiralty's war against German subs, and, in particular, the operation of the "Tracking Room", which constantly plotted the presumed positions of known U-boats on patrol in the Atlantic.

I found the Lindsay-Mohr conflict only marginally engaging as it never resulted in any head-turning plot twists. Moreover, I never got to the point of really caring much about the protagonist Lindsay. Indeed, I thought the antagonist Mohr the more interesting of the two.

The book suffers from being too long by perhaps fifty pages; Williams pads the story with a totally unnecessary romantic entanglement between Douglas and one of the senior trackers in the Tracking Room, Dr. (of Archeology) Mary Henderson.

THE INTERROGATOR is a competent first novel by the author. Now, if he could just make any further offerings leaner and meaner.

In this day and age when public smoking is politically incorrect in some Western countries to the point where I rarely observe it anymore in the social circles I occupy, THE INTERROGATOR is a reminder of the former pervasiveness of the habit. Reading the book, tobacco company executives may fall into a deep reverie remembering the good old days.
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on 29 January 2014
Very nicely paced and extraordinarily well researched book that gives an insight to the internal workings and politics behind the intelligence service. It also has a flavour of life under fire in London and Liverpool, as well as being a compelling love story within the book.
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on 17 March 2012
Rarely in the field of historical fiction has so much research been undertaken to so little avail. The author has clearly read widely about the period - we know, because he devotes four pages to telling us about his sources - but the end result is a curiously lifeless affair. The plot (such as it is) revolves around the breaking of codes, but a combination of historical hindsight and the hero's preternatural intuition robs the denouement of any element of surprise. The characters are stubbornly one-dimensional: the eponymous interrogator, Douglas Lindsay, is a brilliant but tormented survivor of a torpedoed warship, his (totally superfluous) love interest an intelligence officer with strong religious principles, who nevertheless manages to jump into bed with Lindsay inside the first hundred pages. There are the standard authority figures for Lindsay to clash with, and even Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond) appears in a cameo. Worst, however, is the cynical manipulation of the reader by the author. At one point were are told unequivocally that a particular character is dead, only for him to spring miraculously to life as part of the novel's final twist. This book garnered some decent reviews from some sections of the national press. It's hard to see why.
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on 8 February 2014
Nicely written, well researched, taut story. My only criticism is that it ended like a New Yorker story. There was the narrative which I was reading as a page-turner, and, then, it ended. Full stop!
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Set between March and September 1941, this tells a vivid story of naval code-breaking, U-boats and the war at sea. The story of the British having broken the German Enigma codes is now well-known, but this tells the other side of the story as Naval Intelligence battle to find out whether the British codes are equally being read by the other side.

With one of the most vivid and compelling opening chapters I have ever read, Williams gives us a well-crafted story with attractive characters we can care about. The first part, especially, I found completely gripping and it was almost unbearable to stop reading. The plot loses its way slightly in the middle section; and there are some points at which the morality of the 1940s' interrogators seems so very innocent and gentlemanly to more modern readers brought up on the images of Guantanamo Bay etc.

This isn't completely flawless and I particularly found the epilogue unconvincingly neat and tidy allowing lots of questions to be left unanswered. But despite a few niggles this is a hugely entertaining read, which is particularly good at evoking the atmosphere of wartime London, and the war at sea.
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on 20 February 2014
Oh dear what a let down, wounded hero fall in love with a beautiful woaman doing a secret job, boss warns her off, they fall in love - do i need to say more? No what i was looking for and thats onlt in the first 1/4 of the book.
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on 25 December 2013
Very well written, great characterisation and the author excels in painting a very atmospheric and detailed picture of life during WWII. I've already bought 'the poison tide' on the strength of this debut novel.
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on 22 July 2012
Couldn't put it down. I'm not going to give away the plot but if you enjoyed Enigma you'll like this. In fact I thought it was better: fast paced, strong characters, and some real dilemmas. Where do you draw the line in war? What should you tell and not tell, and how should you behave? But most of all, it's a page turner. Enjoy!
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on 13 March 2014
If you like Philip Kerr, you'll be intrigued by this one. Unfair, perhaps, to compare the writer with others in the WW2 field - he has a distinctive voice: authoritative but not afraid to show warmth. The hero is unusual but entirely credible; he quickly earns the reader's sympathy and remains in the memory for some time.
The prose is silken. I shall read more of this author.
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