A riveting and evocative tale of passion and murder, set on the French Riviera in the 1930s, from the No.1 bestselling author of The Savage Garden. France, 1935: At the poor man's end of the Riviera sits Le Rayol, a haven for artists, expatriates and refugees. Here, a world away from the rumblings of a continent heading towards war, Tom Nash has rebuilt his life after a turbulent career in the Secret Intelligence Service. His past, though, is less willing to leave him behind. When a midnight intruder tries to kill him, Tom knows it is just a matter of time before another assassination attempt is made. Gathered at Le Rayol for the summer months are all those he holds most dear, including his beloved goddaughter Lucy. Reluctantly, Tom comes to believe that one of them must have betrayed him. If he is to live, Tom must draw his enemy out, but at what cost to himself and the people he loves...?
©2011 Mark Mills (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
"Mills juggles the mysteries of three periods, switching between centuries with a conjuror's skill... the book is beautifully written, giving life to the figures in their Tuscan landscape." (Literary Review)
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I found this book very disappointing. It sounds so promising - Tom was in Russia in 1919 in the thick of the revolution and is involved in spying of a sort and only just escapes with his life. The story then moves to the French Riviera in 1935 when his days as a spy come back to haunt and threaten him.
One major problem for me was in the characterisation (the book, not the reading). Tom is the handsome, square-jawed hero. His god daughter is of course beautiful and clever and clearly destined to fall in love with Tom despite the age difference. After only a few appearances of her character I am afraid I found her intensely annoying as she was too confident. The other characters are barely drawn at all. The wife of Tom's old colleague from Russia is poisonous to everyone with no real explanation as to why.
There was little tension and the plot twists came along routinely with first one person then another suspected by Tom until they are eliminated from his suspicions sometimes too readily. It's hard to believe he ever worked in intelligence as he is so readily satisfied. There are dark hints of the things he has done while working but they are only hints and he doesn't show any ruthless clear thinking as he is working his way through his dilemmas.
There was little feeling of time. 1935 was quite an interesting time after all but the political background barely gets a look in. Tom himself is an expatriate English man whose circle of friends seem to be other expatriates and there is not enough to place then in the riviera - they could really be anywhere in the world for the story to work.
The reader does his best to bring it to life by trying to inject some tension into it and the various action scenes are well done. The voices are clear and well chosen.
A rather ordinary book which starts with great promise during the aftermath of the Russian Revolution but then becomes almost a "Boys Own" adventure in the South of France.
Having left the spying business and becoming a travel writer the hero seems to earn lots of money from his books and lives in incredible luxury and gives extravagent gifts to his favourite god-daughter. Not credible.
I finished the book because, having holidayed in the area quite a lot, I liked picturing the places in which the story took place but I found the whole thing rather weak and disappointing.
The reader does a great job in trying to carry the story but unfortunately the writer does not live up to his efforts. The title is very misleading and has nothing to do with the story line.
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