Following his wife’s tragic death, Michael Keats’ grief is compounded by the discovery that she had been having an affair. This revelation leads Michael to Italy, his wife’s home country, where he becomes embroiled in tensions which date back to the 1940s. The violence and loyalties of the past reverberate down the years, and Michael finds himself caught up a new and vicious battle.
Gordon Kerr’s protagonist, a London journalist living a previously unremarkable life in 1999, is completely at sea in the unspoken allegiances of former partisan fighters and political tensions of the past, but his reader is able to follow developments fifty years earlier, where the action focuses upon the Italian Resistance groups and their struggles against the German invaders in the Italian Alps. Eighteen year old Sandro Bellini witnesses horrific brutality on both sides, and plays a key role in setting up the narrative played out in the nineties. His story runs parallel to events of 1999, allowing us to meet characters whose actions will have direct implications decades later.
This is well-paced action thriller, with effective twists and turns, and it is also a fascinating historical novel. It was the scenes set during the war which I was most taken with, and Kerr has the ability to write very movingly about the loyalties and horrors of war. Describing one of the characters, he tells us ‘her face would gradually be taking the shape of the skull that formed its framework … It was as if her body were being turned inside out, as if she were beginning to wear her bones like clothes.’ His depiction of the horrors of war and the struggles of the resistance are really well done. There are no true winners here.
Italy, both in 1944 and fifty years on, is brought to life in vivid detail, and it’s easy to become immersed in Michael’s quest to discover the truth and his wife, and in the secrets of the past. We’re reminded in this novel that enemies do not only come from expected quarters. The past can cast long and devastating shadows, and the brutality of the past is only one generation away.
My thanks to Tim Donald at Muswell Press for my review copy. Join the rest of the blog tour at here: