Orléans detective Inès Picaut is called in to investigate the murder of an elderly woman, who has been killed in the manner of traitors to the Resistance in World War Two. The murder coincides with a security conference in the city, including key US personnel, and she is under political pressure to run a speedy but low-profile investigation. However, some key figures at the conference seem to be interested in the story of the dead woman.
This is one of those books where you feel completely immersed in the story. As it’s quite long, I read it over a few days and found myself simultaneously wanting to race through it and not wanting it to end.
The book focuses mainly on the French Resistance and the British agents who worked with them. There is a lot of wonderful detail about cryptography and spycraft. The protagonists are all clever and brave and resourceful. Some are eccentric and cool under pressure. Others are passionate and strong. All experience terrible losses.
It is most fascinating in the insights it gives into the work of undercover agents practising many layers of deception, with complex loyalties and conflicts. These same ambiguities were present in institutions which were looking beyond the war to secure their own interests. As the narrative moves between the past and the present, you are kept guessing about who was betrayed and who survived – and the terrible choices they had to make.
The police-procedural element of the book plays a fairly small part and I was more interested in the story in the past than in the investigation in the present day, but it was fascinating to learn how the events of the past still resonate, not just on the individuals involved but on the political and security networks of the West.
A Treachery of Spies combines crime, espionage, history and international relations in a complex, absorbing and pacy thriller.
I received a copy of A Treachery of Spies from the publisher via Netgalley.
View A Treachery of Spies on Goodreads
For another great spy novel, take a look at my review of London Rules by Mick Herron