3/04/2017

Welcome to historical spy fiction at it's best! (Probably.)


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29420041-where-dead-men-meet?from_search=true
Title: Where Dead Men Meet
Author: Mark Mills
Publisher: Headline Review
Published: November 17, 2016
Genre(s): historical fiction, spy, thriller, mystery
Recommended for: fans of thrills, chills, and Switzerland
Synopsis (via goodreads.com):  

A return to the period adventure thriller in Where Dead Men Meet reestablishes Mark Mills as a master storyteller for fans of William Boyd, Charles Cumming, or Robert Harris

Paris, 1937. Luke Hamilton - a junior air intelligence officer at the British Embassy - finds himself the target of an assassination attempt. A clear case of mistaken identity, or so it first appears. As Luke is hunted across a continent sliding towards war, he comes to learn that the answers lie deep in a past that predates his abandonment as a baby on the steps of an orphanage twenty-five years ago.

From the author of the bestselling The Savage Garden, and set against a terrific backdrop of Europe on the cusp of the Second World War, this is a compelling novel, rich in adventure, espionage, secrets and lies.
  
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Again I'm out of my usual genre(s) but have been loving me some amazing WWII (in this case, pre-WWII) historical fiction this year!!

As I work in a used bookstore, I am familiar with the spy/ war fiction genre, with your Tom Clancy's, your Robert Ludlum's, etc. and I've never given them much of a second glance (unless they were out of alphabetical order! Hollah to my Book Shelvers out there!!) However, Mark Mills may have built a bridge for me, I must say!!*


Where Dead Men Meet has a great opening, introduces some mysterious and intriguing characters, and has the reader hooked right from the start! I loved that after a failed assassination attempt, a relative stranger grabs Luke Hamilton's arm and calmly states, "He's not alone. Come with me if you want to live." [The immature Terminator lover in me had a quick giggle at this particular line, but then was instantly sucked back into the action moments later...]

I am an insta-fan of Mills' writing style, whether he's describing a tour guide as "a fey young man bursting with enthusiasm" or Luke musing over his dire predicament. One particular quote I marked, is, I now realize, a great overall metaphor for this tale. When trying to make sense of the immediate chaos that came into his life, Luke thought of how his mother would approach the situation:
  
"Don't believe Keats," she had once told him. "Beauty isn't truth, and truth isn't beauty. Leave that romantic nonsense to your father and his friends. Beauty declares itself to the world, whereas truth prefers to lurk in the shadows. You have to coax it into the light, and it comes blinking like a bear out of hibernation. That's how you recognize it."  

Mills has a definite strength in setting a scene, and dropping small reminders of the era, using, for instance, a young boy racing past Luke and Pippi, "whipping a wooden hoop with a stick, pursued by a pack of his friends." Which really is a double-nod (or foreshadowing... double-foreshadowing?) to the dire times looming in the near future of WWII.

However, Mills sometimes describes the scenery to a fault, in my humble opinion. Certain scenery (e.g. the hills in Switzerland) was very well constructed, but there were pages (and pages) about Paris (a city I've even BEEN to - just to [city] name drop) and my attention waned to the point where I thought I had short-circuited over into a James Joyce novel (Hollah to my Ulysses haters out there!). 

Otherwise, loved the story, the drama, the mystery, the characters. Not sure I would want to read a spy team series of Pippi & Hamilton per se, but this was a great stand alone spy thriller.
Thusly, my rating of 4/5 stars.
  
Also, a last note: not to beat a dead horse about the current political climate in America at this very moment, but I thought a warning from Pippi hit a little too close to the "history repeating itself" trope/ reality:

"Whatever you think about Hitler," she said, "he is a clever man. He knew who he had to buy, and he bought them with the money of the people he hates. That is genius. That is madness. That is why we must fight him."

I'm just saying...

Thank you again for perusing my review! And thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this great read!

~ Spinning Jenny 

* Also, if you're a war/spy/thriller fan, please leave any author recommendations in the comments below!
 

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