After a reading a slew of Scandinavian crime novels recently, I thought it was about time opened a book by a British writer. I read Andrew Williams’s excellent, The Poison Tide, when it was published in 2012 although I seem to have neglected to review it on this blog. He writes historical thrillers with a strong sense of tension and an interesting slant on the politics of the time. His latest book, The Suicide Club, is in a similar vein with a fascinating premise. The story revolves around a group of soldiers in the First World War who are being trained to mount assaults inside occupied Belgium. Named ‘The Suicide Club’ for obvious reasons it’s a story about treachery on both sides and the dangers that both soldiers and civilians face during the mechanics of war.
In this centenary year marking the start of WWI and as we approach Armistice Day the timing of this book couldn’t be better. It reminds us readers of the tensions that took place as the War reached its latter stages and, in particular, the lack of confidence in the military leaders. Ostensibly, the protagonist, Sandy Innes, is an intelligence officer sent to spy on this own ranks for signs of treachery inside military headquarters. However, the narrative opens out into occupied Belgium and Innes’s own desperate attempt to survive.
The depiction of the network of spies in Belgium is compelling with a strong emphasis on the risks that people are facing under the constant threat of betrayal and reprisals. The characterisation is also excellent. By 1917 many officers, scarred by the course that the war has taken, have something to hide. It is Innes job to see how deep this weariness goes.
As soon as I got the book, I wanted to read it which is a mark of the quality of Williams’s writing. Thanks to Hodder for sending me an early copy. The Suicide Club is published on the 6th November.