‘Black Out’

Black Out by John Lawton is a fabulous read. It is quite a long book, but there are enough twists and turns along the way that you stay interested all the way until the end! I’ve always really enjoyed reading books about the war, I’m actually writing one as well…but that’s not important right now…anyway I always like reading about the war from different perspectives and I think this may be the first book that I’ve read from the point of view of a policeman. It’s easy to forget that crime still happened because there was so much else going on!

Anywho…it is 1944, our protagonist is Detective Sergeant Troy, and severed arm has been discovered by a group of school children (and a hungry dog…). In true detective story-style, there is much more to the plot than this one murder and slowly the story begins to unravel, sweeping both Troy and the reader along into a deep plot tinged with politics, international relations, lust and secrecy.

My only beef with this book is that it seemed to take me ages to read! I think that if certain sections had been more concise, it would have felt more like a detective thriller than a detective novel…there were lots of bits that had me on the edge but then instead of catapulting me onto the next plot twist, it bumbled along for a while…I just think it could have been a bit shorter. On reflection, maybe my desperation for a thriller-style detective novel isn’t fair to the author…Black Out is a brilliant read, I definitely didn’t guess the ending…I had my suspicions but I was kept guessing until the very end – which as you know, rarely happens!

‘The Spy Game’

It took me longer than usual to finish this book, but not because I didn’t enjoy it…just because I’m not commuting everyday at the moment and trains are where I do a lot of my reading haha!

‘The Spy Game’ by Georgina Harding is enthralling but subtle and I really enjoyed it. It is set in the Cotswolds and tells the story of two children, Anna and Peter and their quest to find clues as to their mother’s whereabouts in the years after WW2, when she mysteriously vanishes. At the time they were only told that there was an accident and she died, but Peter’s curious nature prompts him to create a spy game, in which he and his sister try and piece together the truth and their mother’s mysterious identity. The idea of creating games and becoming spies is something that I’m sure most adults can relate back to their own childhood. It allows you to escape into a world where it is possible to find out the impossible, which is endearing to read. The novel also shows the way that sibling relationships change over time and demonstrates how difficult it is when one of them moves away and refuses to remember the past. We empathise with both of the children and relate to the desperation to find the truth.

The only thing I would have liked to see at the end of the novel, was more of a conclusion of the plot…that’s not to say that I didn’t like the ending, I thought it was lovely to see a snapshot of the past, a snapshot of love, if you will…but throughout the novel there is this desperation to find the truth, to find out what happened to Peter and Anna’s mother all those years ago. All the suspicion, all the unanswered questions…perhaps I’m too curious for my own good, but when Anna goes to Germany in search of answers…a big part of me thought that she would find her mother, or at least something…but I suppose Anna’s story reflects the reality facing many people in the aftermath of the Cold War.

This is a really good read, which would be great to read on the train or on holiday! It takes you right into the heart of a family struggling with their mother’s death (or disappearance…) and shrouds you in the suspicion and doubt that faced people in lots of countries for years after the war.

‘The Spy Game’ is a brilliant book, beautifully written and a fascinating look into the existence of spies in England and around the world.