276 pages. 3 maps. Historical note.
They call this a "lush romantic thriller," which is certainly the truth, but for our audience, it's important to point out that it's an historical novel. Yes, it's a murder mystery, but it is deeply embedded into the story of Malta in 1942, the British island in the Mediterranean that was battered and beaten and threatened by invasion.
The protagonist is Max Chadwick, a former architecture student who by fate and misfortune has fallen into the role of Information Officer for Malta: his job is to 'spin' the news to keep up the spirits of the Maltese population. Which sets up an interesting conflict: is his duty to find the killer, or to cover up the crime?
Max's friend, a doctor at the hospital, has made him aware of the horrific killing of a young Maltese girl. The local authorities seem to be doing nothing – are they incompetent, covering it up, or do they know something? The only evidence suggests the murderer is British, and there may be other victims…
The novel also delves deeply into Max's private life, which at first seems a distraction to the mystery tale, but soon it all becomes deeply intertwined. He has an interesting set of friends, including a pilot, a American liason, and an artillery officer with a love of the theater. Max's girlfriend has broken up with him, and he is having an affair with a married woman while also falling in love with a Maltese co-worker.
The author plays an interesting game by also telling the story from the viewpoint of the killer, but only gradually revealing significant information about him. He has created a character with a back story that makes this villain particularly horrifying.
Much of the charm of the book is that it is set in Malta in WWII, and does an excellent job of putting the reader into the crisis of 1942.
Note that, as this is a romantic thriller, there are a number of 'steamy' sex scenes that might offend some, or be too much for younger readers. And, as it is a book about a serial killer, there is violence and brutality as appropriate for the subject matter.
Excellent book with many memorable characters. I enjoyed the story enough that I was almost disappointed when the book came to its conclusion.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .