There may be better places to read a tale of derring-do in war torn France, but the Ille de Oleron, in the heart of what was once the occupied zone, takes some beating.
As the OH and I drove through the Frenchcountryside or meandered through sleepy towns and villages, it was easy to picture ourselves in the world depicted in Howard Linskey’s World War Two thriller Ungentlemanly Warfare, where Captain Harry Walsh, has been tasked with assassinating the scientific genius behind the ME 163, a miracle jet fighter that could destroy all chance of allied victory in Europe.
Harry is ruthless, unorthodox and an officer, but not quite a gentleman.
He’s also haunted by the death of his closest friend, trapped in a loveless marriage and still attracted to former lover Emma Stirling, who along with American OSS agent Sam Cooper and M. Christophe Valvert from de Gaulle’s Free French army, parachute into France with him.
Linskey, (right) whose earlier novels, The Drop and The Damage were respectively voted one of the top five thrillers of the year by The Times and one of The Times’ top summer reads, writes with the authority of someone who has thoroughly researched his period and properly empathises with the desperate will-to-live that drives people caught in impossible situations.
Initially, I struggled a bit with Harry – a sort of James Bond-cum-lower middle class maverick. Are real men quite so recklessly courageous? Able to successfully carry out seemingly impossible assignments?
Then I remembered Kubis and Gabcik, the real life SOE agents, who were the protagonists of Linskey’s earlier faction Hunting the Hangman, (reviewed here) who undertook a similar suicide mission to kill Reinhard Heidrich, the so-called Butcher of Prague.
And started to worry…because Kubis and Gabcik, and quite a lot of the people who helped them, ended up dead.
I was hooked.
Ungentlemanly Warfare is a gripping page-turner that ends with a big question. Who is the traitor, whose treacherous double-cross threatens Harry’s life and the success of his deadly commission?
Fingers crossed this means that Linskey has further outings planned for Harry and Emma.
Review by Sue Featherstone.
Available to buy on Amazon.