RUBIN’S DEBUT IS A LIBERATION FROM OTHER FAR FETCHED ALT. HISTORY BOOKS

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Liberation SquareThis week, the Crystal Palace and Welsh International goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy was accused by a Football Association hearing of “lamentable” ignorance towards Fascism and Adolf Hitler. This came after he used the excuse that he didn’t know what a Nazi salute was. This thirty-year-old highly paid premier league footballer’s appearance before the tribunal came after images of him emerged last year, at a Crystal Palace team dinner, making what was construed as a Nazi salute.

There have been enough movies and video games made, as well as books published in the past three decades,(Schindler’s List, The Boy in The Stripped Pyjamas, Inglorious Bastards and Call Of Duty) to leave only someone living in a cultural vacum or a hermitage, in this position. Following the decision of the Football association conduct hearing which cleared the player, he was sent informative material by The Auschwitz Memorial about Fascism.

Mr Hennessy, like quite a large number of people in the UK and across Europe, lives a good life owing to the sacrifices made by their grandparents and hopefully will never experience the constraints of Fascism or even Socialism, except in the realms of video games or as alternative history story lines in TV programmes and books. One of those books is this month’s second review, its Liberation Square by Gareth Rubin, published by Michael Joseph (www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/michael-joseph.html) on the 18th April .

Its 1952, in a divided European country following the end of the second world war. But instead of hearing German accents as you travel around this place they are English … Yes, the D-Day landings failed and England is divided following a German invasion. The Democratic United Kingdom controlled by the Allies lies beyond a border stretching from Bristol to the Norfolk coast. Beneath that line, is the Soviet controlled Republic of Great Britain and inside it is London a city divided in two by a large wall.

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The Berlin Wall (StMU History Media)

In the Soviet controlled sector of the city Jane Cawson, a school teacher, suspects her doctor husband Nick is having an affair with his first wife, Lorelei an actress and star of numerous propaganda films. Jane goes to Lorelei’s house in the hope of confronting the two of them, but finds the former Mrs Cawson murdered in her bath. Nick is arrested on suspicion of murder and held by the brutal Secret Police.

Jane then starts trying to prove her husband’s innocence to get him released, she starts probing Nicks relationship with his former wife, why are there coded messages hidden in a book in Lorelei’s house. All the while trying to protect her step-daughter, as well as not arousing suspicion from the authorities and nosy neighbours  who are all too eager to tow the party line and curry favours. With the help of Tibbot, a middle-aged East End bobby, Jane starts to piece together the identity of Lorelei’s murderer and hopefully prove Nick’s innocence. But is he innocent? Was Lorelei consorting with the Allies and what does it have to do with her recent miscarriage…?

As alternative history driven plot lines go, this in the current climate is not too far from the truth. With Brexit looming over the United Kingdom, the country is divided and becoming even more fractured by the day.

Rubin’s book is superbly crafted and drives the imagination from the first page to its conclusion, with its Sliding Doors – “What If” scenario. Along the way it asks the reader to imagine what might have happened if the course of history had changed.

The description of the remnants of war-torn London and the citizens trying get by under a brutal socialist regime are thought provoking and envelopes the reader into the story with every turn of the page. The historical nuances are superb, especially when you have Jane coming up against the likes of Burgess and Blunt and other members of the Cambridge five spy ring, who in this story have been exalted into running the country for their soviet bosses, as a reward for their cowardice and betrayal.

As for the characters, Jane is an excellent heroine, whose simplicity allows her to be believable and sets her apart from the all too often, highly skilled, super spy protagonist you expect to find in these types of books. She’s a school teacher, in well over her head, but allowed to follow the course of her investigations by the assistance of some other remarkably drawn characters, such as Tibbot the police officer working up to his retirement and the cagey and mysterious Charles, Nicks practice manager. Not forgetting the other host of run of the mill cockney characters and party hangers on and apparatchiks who help drive the story forward, as well as making it as wholly believable as it.

This is English Author Gareth Rubin’s (http://gr8502.wixsite.com) first

Gareth Rubin

Gareth Rubin

novel, he’s written one previous book, an anthology of mistakes which have changed the course of British history, called The Great Cat Massacre A History of Britain in One Hundred Mistakes (2014). He’s journalist also a covering social affair, travel and the arts for various newspapers. In 2013 he directed a documentary about therapeutic art at The Royal Bethlehem Hospital in London, otherwise known as ‘Bedlam’.

Liberation Square asks the unthinkable; what if for example Alan Turing and his secret team at Bletchley hadn’t broken the Enigma machine or Churchill’s government hadn’t found enough little boats to Sail twelve miles across the channel to rescue the Allies from Dunkirk? It makes the reader realize how much of what happened during that time in history is down to coincidences and a stroke of luck, as well as how easily things could have gone awry. If things had happened as in this book, where would the likes of Wayne Hennessy be now? Would they have been even born?

So if you are looking for deeply engrossing debut thriller, to read over the Easter break, which will make you think twice about how good your life is now, then get down to your local book shop or download a copy.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

 

This book part of a Penguin Books blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought. Visit their blogs listed below and if you pick up a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d love the feedback.

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SVEISTRUP’S DEBUT WILL SEND YOU NUTS FOR THE NEXT INSTALMENT

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The Chestnut Man JacketIt’s almost a week since some of us roasted chestnuts on an open fire and possibly a good while since Jack Frost nipped at our nose (it was a very mild Christmas Day here on the East Coast of Ireland). In life as well as in literature criminals or especially serial killers get fancy monikers, while plain old Jack Frost and the like are the heroes, as in ITV’s detective drama starring the very wonderful David Jason. Although The Chestnut Man is a new one on me in the evil villainous names department. He’s the mysterious killer in this months second and last review and blog tour of 2018.  It’s The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup and published by Michael Joseph, part of Penguin  (www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/michael-joseph.html) on the 10th January.

One Tuesday in October, the Danish Social Affairs Minister Rosa Hartung returns to her job after a leave of absence, following the abduction of her daughter who was never found, despite a suspect being arrested and convicted but unwilling to disclose the child’s fate. On the same day, police in Copenhagen discover the body of a young woman in a playground, one hand has been severed and a chestnut figure is found near the body. Young Detective Naia Thulin and her partner Mark Hess a detective recently dismissed from Europol, are assigned to the case. Soon they find evidence connecting the chestnut man to the Rosa Hartung’s disappeared daughter. Shortly afterwards when another woman’s body is discovered, this time with both hands severed and another chestnut figure nearby, the two detectives realize they are racing against the clock to catch a serial killer before the city becomes totally paralysed by fear and he completes his twisted agenda…

I have a confession. I missed the furore surrounding ‘The Killing’, the Bafta and Emmy award winning series created by Dane, Søren Sviestrup. The thriller captured the imagination and shredded the nerves of fans worldwide. It also started a trend for Faroe Isle knitwear- I’m not so sorry I missed that.  It wasn’t the subtitles which deterred me, I have enjoyed many of the ‘Walter Presents’ international offerings on Channel 4 but I hate missing the beginning of a story and unless I watch BBC4 shows when they are aired I cannot catch up with them or watch them ‘on demand’ with Sky here in Ireland.

My friends will tell you that I’m the same with a series of books featuring the same characters, I have to start at the start and stay in order. In that way I was delighted to be in at the beginning of the Thulin and Hess story reading The Chestnut Man, Sviestrup’s debut novel. I predict (and hope) for many more cases to come.

Soren Sviestrup

Søren Sveistrup

 

I love a good murder mystery. Weaned on Agatha Christie, I moved onto Ruth Rendell and PD James at an early age and still return to those old favourites when the urge arises. I loved their ingenuity, the twists, turns and red herrings. I prefer to not know the identity of the killer at the start but to be led through a maze of clues, misdirection and revelations to a satisfying conclusion. This book ticked all  my boxes. Two flawed and realistic detectives, newly paired. A ‘cold case’, a serial killer with a disturbing signature and a tension filled climax.

This is a meaty book at 500 pages but I couldn’t wait to pick it up each day. This was my equivalent of a binge watch. I could easily see it being made into a television series. Some the writing is very much a screenplay. You can almost hear the movements of the actors being directed. There are no long descriptive passages regarding scenery or inner thoughts, unless they are pertinent to the narrative. This is very much plot driven. Saying that I enjoyed the characters.

The book introduces us to a typical sleuthing pairing in Naia Thulin, a detective in the murder squad, looking to advance her career and Hess sent back to the police department after some infraction at Europol . Hess is at first disinterested in the new case, just biding his time until he can return to his real life. but he soon is drawn headlong in. As for the minister Rosa Hartung and her husband, their presence suggests there is political machinations at play. The book is populated with a plethora of smaller characters who all have a role to play, even if its only to help us learn a little more about the main characters and maybe send us off tack.

This is Danish scriptwriter Søren Sviestrop’s first book, but he is best known for his highly acclaimed TV crime drama The Killing, which won various international awards and sold in more than a hundred countries. More recently, Sveistrup wrote the screenplay for Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman. He obtained a master’s in literature and in History from the University of Copenhagen and studied at the Danish Film School. He has also won countless prizes, including an Emmy for Nikolaj and Julie and a BAFTA for The Killing

Like the Killing, In The Chestnut Man there is a mix of police work and politics. There is aFaroe Isle sweater dig at bureaucracy and paper pushing in relation to those who fall through the cracks and left without support. The violence is graphic. The tension builds. I’ve always been particularly terrified by those movies and dramas where the victim enters their home and the bad guy is already there hiding so this book gave me a couple of anxious moments, but for a thriller that can only be a plus!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and so will you. I suggest you  pre-order a copy at your local bookshop or download one post haste. Meanwhile I await a sequel with anticipation and the odd glance over my shoulder into the darkening house, while nibbling  on a roasted chestnut…

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This review  is part of a Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought see their sites below and visit them. If you agree or disagree with their reviews after reading the book, let us know.

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From all of us at The Library Door, I’d like to say thank you for visiting the site over the past year and following us both here and on twitter (@apaulmurphy) and wish you all a very happy New Year.

Adrian Murphy