Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review of Echobeat by Joe Joyce (Liberties Press, 2014)

Winter 1940. Like America, Ireland has so far managed to remain neutral in the war. It is coming under more pressure however from both Britain and Germany to declare sides. Britain is wanting use of Irish deep water ports for convoys, is building up troops in the North, and is threatening to minimize trade. The Germans want to increase the size of the legation, are agitating for pro-German stance, and are offering arms to fight the British if they try to sieve the ports. Despite the pro-German stance of the IRA, the Irish government is desperate to remain neutral and avoid Ireland becoming a battleground. To keep the Germans at bay they need to increase the strength of their diplomatic hand and decipher German intent from recent bombings. They turn to G2, Irish military intelligence, for answers, who in turn seek out Hermann Goertz, the chief German spy in Ireland, who has been on the run for almost a year. Captain Paul Duggan is charged with finding Goertz, as well as run an operation eavesdropping on German aviators who frequent a Dublin café. Under pressure from his political masters, Duggan turns to his uncle, a republican Fianna Fail TD, a friend in special branch, and a young German Jew refugee for help. The case takes a strange turn when it becomes clear that a British artist and conscientious objector is also using the café to try and pass important secrets onto the Germans. As well as falling in love with his new agent, Duggan finds himself in a high-stakes game that is explosive enough to change the course of the war.

is the second book in the Echoland series featuring Captain Paul Duggan of G2, the Irish military intelligence, during the Second World War. This outing is set over Christmas 1940 and into early 1941. German has conquered much of North West Europe, has lost the Battle of Britain, but is winning the Battle of the Atlantic. The United States, like Ireland, is neutral. Britain wants access to Ireland’s deep water ports and for the US to enter the war; Germany wants to prevent both. Ireland is being subject to diplomatic pressure and sabre rattling by both, including a few bombs being dropped by German planes. G2’s job is decipher both countries intentions and the games they are playing to bring pressure to bear on the Irish government, and to discover and track their spies. Duggan is given the task of locating Germany’s spymaster, who is on the run, as well pick up gossip from downed airmen. His job takes an unexpected turn when he stumbles across a plot to halt America entering the war. Joyce does a nice job of spinning this scenario into a compelling spy thriller that has plenty of intrigue, tension, and at times levity. Duggan and his special branch pal, Peter Gifford, form a nice double-act and the romance with a German Jew turned café spy is well spun. There’s a strong sense of place and time; the historical contextualisation is excellent with respect to the Irish position during the war, the pressure placed on the government, and its internal politics, without swamping the story. I wasn’t wholly convinced by one part of the denouement and the wrap-up seemed quite perfunctory, but overall an interesting and entertaining read.

1 comment:

Christophe said...

Sounds like a very interesting story, and mostly well-told. Thanks for your review!