Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Review of The Age of Treachery by Gavin Scott (Titan Books, 2016)

Winter, 1946. Duncan Forrester has resumed his career as a historian at an Oxford College after spending the war working for SOE in occupied Europe. The wife of his best friend is having an affair with a fellow don. When the don is found dead, supposedly stabbed and thrown from the rooms of the cuckolded husband, he is accused of murder. Forrester is convinced his friend is innocent and is determined to proof it. On the night of the murder, his college was hosting a dinner with a number of guests, including a German professor of literature and a Norwegian scholar of sagas. Forrester is convinced that there might be some connection, and this suspicion is heightened when he is attacked himself. The police, however, are uninterested, convinced they have the right man, leaving Forrester to draw on his war-time skills and contacts, travelling to London, Berlin, Denmark and Norway and tangle with dark forces in order to reveal the real killer.

The Age of Treachery is the first book in the Duncan Forrester series that follows the exploits of ex-SOE agent turned historian. In this initial outing, Forrester has returned to academic life as a junior fellow at an Oxford College. When his best friend is accused of murdering a fellow don who was having an affair with his wife, Forrester sets out to find the real killer, slowly uncovering a war-time conspiracy that some are willing to kill for to keep secret. The story is written as a kind of ‘Boys’ Own’ tale of adventure, with Forrester drawing on his historian skills to uncover evidence and his SOE-skills to stay alive as dark forces try to stop his quest. Dropped into the tale are before-they-were-famous cameos by real-life people such as Robert Maxwell, Margaret Thatcher, and Kenneth Tynan. If one treats the story as a Boys’ Own take it’s reasonably engaging and entertaining, despite being somewhat thin and unbelievable throughout. That said, it would have worked more effectively if the identity of the killer wasn’t telegraphed from a very long way out and the solution to the ‘locked room’ element of the murder – that none of a room’s occupants can easily get to the site of the killing – wasn’t ridiculous.

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