Saturday, 11 June 2016

The German Messenger by David Malcolm

The German Messenger by David Malcolm
Published by Crime Wave Press in May 2016.

Featured in 5Books1Theme: The Great War and WorldReads: Scotland

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher.

Author David Malcolm was born and grew up in Scotland so I am counting The German Messenger as my third book for the 2016 Read Scotland Challenge.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Late 1916. Europe is tearing itself apart in the Great War. Harry Draffen, part Greek, part Scottish, British secret agent, cosmopolitan, polyglot, man of violence, is having a bad war. Now he is instructed to uncover a plot by the Central Powers against England. From the slums of East London to an Oxford college, from the trenches on the Western Front to an isolated house on the Scottish coast, on to a bloody showdown in the North of England, he chases a phantom and elusive German messenger. Betrayed, deceived, under attack from many enemies, bringing death to those he does not hate and even to those he loves, he tries to reach the heart of the mystery. In a final reckoning in a London tenement, he at last understands the full scope of the plots centered on the German messenger.'

The German Messenger is narrated throughout by our career spy protagonist Harry Draffen. Formerly eager for adventure, he is now getting older and becoming more aware of both his own mortality and that of the people around him which provides a fascinating viewpoint on the Great War. With so many thousands lost every day, what difference can Harry's mission to find one man actually make?  Malcolm wonderfully evokes the 1910s across Europe, the suspicions and intrigues, and the reality of so many countries distrusting each other. The German Messenger is no predictable them-against-us thriller. Instead I enjoyed reading a nuanced and complex pan-European espionage mystery.

We do see everything from Harry's point of view so other characters, especially the women, aren't as fully portrayed as perhaps they could have been. Locations are beautifully described though so I could easily envisage smoky London clubs, a fusty Oxford college, the horror of the trenches and the cold Scottish rain. The prose is let down by a few too many distracting typos, but otherwise I found The German Messenger to be a nicely atmospheric literary thriller.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by David Malcolm / War fiction / Books from Scotland

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