Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Review of A Treachery of Spies by Manda Scott (2018, Corgi)

Present day and an elderly woman is found shot dead in a car park. To Capitaine Inés Picaut it appears to be a professional hit. The only clue is a business card sown into the lining of the victim’s coat. Picaut and her team discover that the victim's name appears to be Sophie Destivelle and a local film company was making a documentary about her involvement with SOE, a British-American Jedburgh team and the French Marquis in the Jura Mountains in the days leading up the D-Day landings and liberation. Other members of that group’s war-time leaders are present in Orleans, as is a special conference attended by high ranking American intelligence officers. When a second killing takes place of the son of one of the Marquis members, Picaut realises she has two mysteries to solve: who is killing Marquis members and their descendants and what happened during the war to prompt the murders so many years later. The remaining Marquis are not talking, determined to complete unfinished business and discover the identity of the suspected spy within their close knit resistance group. What started in the early 1940s is seemingly about to come to a bloody end.

A Treachery of Spies is the second book in the Capitaine Inés Picaut series, but can be read as a standalone. Manda Scott expertly weaves together two inter-related plots that are separated by seventy years. The first concerns a battle of wits between a master Gestapo agent who cleverly turns resistance members and a group of SOE agents and French Marquis that last much of the war. The resistance cell never quite gets the upper hand, even in victory, and the tight core of leaders are unsure if and who might be a spy. The second charts the present day investigation by Picaut into the assassination of one of SOE agents, Sophie Destivelle, herself turned and turned back again and also an assassin of traitors and collaborators during and after the war. Both threads make for compelling stories in and of themselves, with nicely crafted and well told plots, but when twisted together the result is a page-turning thriller. The characterisation is very nicely done, there’s good historical contextualisation, and the underlying premise in terms of the post-war era is interesting. Scott peppers the plot with twists and turns, and keeps the reader guessing as to the identity of the Marquis traitor and why the killing has resumed. An excellent read to finish up 2019.

No comments: