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Published by Constable, 4 July
2019. ISBN: 978-1-47213-036-5 (HB)
This is the fifth in this excellent series about
Ireland in World War II and the story of Detective Inspector Stefan Gillespie
of the Special Branch of the Irish Police. Ireland’s troubled history runs deep
in these stories; this novel begins in 1921 and Ireland’s fight for
independence from Britain with his father David, who had been a member of the
Dublin Metropolitan Police but who had resigned and returned to the family
farm, being savagely beaten up by the notorious Black-and-Tans. David’s
Protestant faith was not enough to save him from serious injury.
By 1940 David’s son
Stefan is now in the Irish Police although his father’s Protestantism and his
mother’s German nationality mean that he stands somewhat apart from other Irish
men and women. However, Stefan now has been suspended from the Irish Police and
is back on his father’s farm. The reader, however, knows that there is more to
this suspension than meets the eye. Nominally, it is because on a previous
assignment when he had been sent to Germany he had met various people who,
although themselves Irish had openly gone over to the Nazis, and this has given
Stefan’s superior, Superintendent Gregory, the excuse to suspend him. Not that
Gregory really believes that Stefan has behaved badly; true to his profoundly
devious nature, he is playing a game of deep deception. Stefan is to go to
London, which is currently in the throes of the Blitz, where he will find work
in a pub popular with the Irish in London and frequented by various members of
the IRA as they pass through London.
Germans are anxious to encourage the IRA in acts of violence; they have, it
seems a somewhat inflated view of the effectiveness of the Dublin IRA as a
weapon against the British and they have sent an agent to liaise with the IRA.
We know who that agent is: Vera Eriksen now calling herself Vera Kennedy. We
know she is ruthless: she had no compunction in betraying her companion simply
because he was foolish and talked too much. And we know that she has become
involved in a relationship with Stefan who does not yet know who she is.
This is all part of
Superintendent Gregory’s Great Game of deception and counter deception which
he, along with his colleague Geroid de Paor of the Irish Secret Service in
conjunction with the British Secret Service, is playing in which Stefan is just
one among a number of pieces. The ultimate aim is above all to preserve
Ireland’s neutrality as the Irish President desires above all else while at the
same time giving as much aid to Britain is possible. The various plotlines
become increasingly complex until the final skilful unravelling.
Every title in this
series is better than the one preceding and I am looking forward to the next
one in the series. Which city will it be next time? Belfast – where the Boys in
the North are rather more effective than their comrades in the Republic?
Warsaw, ground down by the Nazi occupation? Cairo, in the months before
El-Alamein? And will Stefan ever be able to make a safe and peaceful life in
Ireland for himself and his young son Tom? Highly recommended
Michael Russell was born in England. He read English at Oxford
before for three years as a farm labourer in North Devon. His knowledge of
farming (rather than writing) eventually got him a job as script editor on the
English soap opera 'Emmerdale', in the days when it was still called 'Emmerdale
Farm'. He went on to become a television writer and producer, writing for such
programmes as 'All Creatures Great and Small', 'EastEnders', 'Between the
Lines', 'The Bill', 'Midsomer Murders', 'A Touch of Frost'. By the time he decided to write his first
novel he was living in Ireland and it seemed inevitable that he would combine a
passion for crime fiction with the stories about Ireland between the First and
Second World Wars that he had once heard from his grandmother. The result was The
City of Shadows. Michael lives with his family in West Wicklow, Ireland.
born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven
years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice.
Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional
work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of
her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published
late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal
flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a
third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology –
and is now concentrating on her own writing.