A Treachery Of Spies by Manda Scott

The Blurb On The Back:

An elderly woman of striking beauty is found murdered in Orleans, France.  Her identity has been cleverly erased but the method of her death is very specific: she has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two.

Tracing down her murderer leads police inspector Inès Picaut back to 1940s France where the bravest of men and women are engaged in a desperate fight for survival against the Nazi invaders.

To find answers in the present, Inès must discover what really happened in the past, untangling a web of treachery and intrigue that stretches back to the murder victim’s youth.

The past is about to be exposed, but there are those in the present who will kill to keep it buried …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s March 2018, many months after the events in INTO THE FIRE and Captain Inès Picaut has recently returned to work, although the physical and psychological effects of that case still linger.  She’s called out when the body of an elderly lady called Sophie Distivelle is found locked in the driving seat of an old Citreon BX parked near Orleans railway station, shot with two bullets to the chest and one to the head and – most chilling – with her tongue cut out.  It’s a brutal method of execution, used by members of the Resistance on those who betrayed them to the Nazis during World War II.

But as Picaut and her team try to uncover further details on Distivelle, they are frustrated by how little of her exists on the record – for Distivelle is just one alias used by a woman who was a member in the Resistance during the war, working for and assisting Britain’s Special Operations Executive along with Group Captain Laurence Vaughan-Thomas, his cousin Theodora, RenéVivier and JJ Crotteau – now one of Orleans’s most powerful and respected men.  Distivelle had recently filmed a contribution for a documentary about the Resistance and SOE activities that’s produced by Elodie Duvall, whose parents were members of the same Resistance cell.  The more Picaut digs, the more it becomes clear that the motive for Distivelle’s murder lies in her activities during the War and her relationships within her Maquis cell …

Manda Scott’s “semi-sequel’ to INTO THE FIRE is a blistering crime novel that splits its narrative between Picaut’s modern-day investigation and Distivelle’s activities during and after World War II. Scott’s depiction of the War is pitch-perfect (and for me, better than the current day investigation) and she expertly weaves various plot lines within her different time periods before bringing them together in the end in a thoroughly gripping way.

I hadn’t read INTO THE FIRE before reading this book (although I now intend to rectify that) but Scott gives you enough detail to be able to understand the impact on Picaut within this book.  I believed in Picaut’s attempts to get past what happened to her in that book (although I would wasn’t sure I quite got her relationship with Patrice, who pops up to give some cyber assistance for this case) and I enjoyed her determination to get to the truth although in truth. However, she does suffer in comparison to the dazzling, vendetta-driven Sophie who hides between different identities and is motivated only be her desire to kill Nazis.  For me the best scenes in the book are those where she’s present, notably the scenes where she has to play a dangerous game with a local Nazi commander – Kramme – who thinks she’s a double agent.  I also enjoyed the scenes told from Vaughan-Thomas’s point of view as he gives a valuable insight into the activities of SOE and its rivalries with other War departments and his relationship with his brilliant cousin, Theodora, is warm and poignant.

Kramme is a cunning and cruel antagonist and there’s a lot of entertainment to be had in working out exactly what happened to him with Scott again drawing on real life events with the Americans taking in Nazi officers after the War where they felt they would assist in the next conflict against the Soviets.  Certainly the fall-out of his activities drives what’s Picaut’s having to uncover in the present day and I admired the way Scott draws out those different lines and then intertwines them to throw the reader off the scent.

All in all, I thought this was a thoroughly enjoyable mix of crime and espionage thriller and will definitely be checking out Scott’s other work.

A TREACHERY OF SPIES was released in the United Kingdom on 9thAugust 2018.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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