John lawton friends and traitors

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john lawton friends and traitors

Friends and Traitors (Inspector Troy, #8) by John Lawton

I seem to be making a habit recently of coming in at an advanced stage of a series. As a case in point, Friends and Traitors is book eight in John Lawton’s Inspector Troy series. (However, it’s not quite as bad as a book I’m shortly to read – Prussian Blue by the late lamented Philip Kerr – which is number twelve in his Bernie Gunther series.)

As a sign of how far we are into the series, Inspector Troy is now a Chief Superintendent in charge of the Murder Squad. However, the author is kind to readers like myself who haven’t read previous books in the series, because the first part of Friends and Traitors takes us back to when Troy was a young man and to his first meeting with Guy Burgess at a family dinner party. Over the next few years, Troy has a number of memorable encounters with Burgess, one of which will prove to be crucial to events later in the book.

The Guy Burgess of Friends and Traitors is the louche, sexually promiscuous, heavy drinking risk-taker that I remember from Alan Bennett’s television play, An Englishman Abroad (with the inimitable Alan Bates playing Burgess). However, he’s also terrifically entertaining. ‘It occurred to Troy that Burgess was the kind of bloke who’d never leave a party until physically thrown out.’ The author gives Burgess some great lines: ‘Two things an Englishman should never go abroad without – Jane Austen and a badger-hair shaving brush.’ There is also a brilliant section after Burgess’ defection where he lists at length all the things he misses about England, including ‘the bloke in the pub in Holborn who could fart the national anthem’, Mantovani, his flannelette stripy pyjamas and ‘jellied eels and a bit of rough’. (There’s a lot more.)

Talking of risk takers, Troy is a bit of one himself. Clever, well-read and resourceful, he nevertheless gets himself into some scrapes, many of them involving women. And every so often in Friends and Traitors, the author drops in a nugget of sometimes quite surprising information about Troy’s past. Troy’s family contain some characters as well, especially his sisters who also have a chequered history when it comes to relationships (with men and booze).

The book did feel a little fragmented at times as if a number of different stories had been melded together. For instance, there is section in which Troy joins members of his family on a ‘Grand Tour’ of European capitals whose main purpose seems to be to place Troy in Vienna at a pivotal moment. And the murder of the agent mentioned in the book description and Troy’s subsequent investigation of it doesn’t happen until around half way through the book.

However, I really enjoyed Friends and Traitors and the fragments of information about Troy’s previous exploits have made me keen to read earlier books in the series. Who knows, I might even break with habit and start from the beginning! As a fan of espionage stories, including John le Carré, I found the sections of the book about Guy Burgess really fascinating. I recommend reading the author’s Afterword which includes details of his research and key sources.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers Grove Press in return for an honest and unbiased review.
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John Lawton


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Cancel anytime. It is Wolfgang Stahl, an American spy operating undercover as an SS officer, has just fled Germany with Hitler's henchmen on his trail. Stahl's man in the American embassy, the shy and sheltered Calvin M. Cormack, is teamed with a boisterous MI5 officer, Walter Stilton, to find the spy and bring him to safety. Their investigation takes them across war-torn London, from the shelled-out blocks to the ubiquitous pubs to the underground counterfeiting shops; and in Cormack's case, into the arms of Kitty, his partner's rambunctious daughter. Joe Wilderness is a World War II orphan, a condition that he thinks excuses him from common morality.

But Frederick Troy only gets as far as Vienna. It is there that he crosses paths with an old acquaintance, a man who always seems to be followed by trouble: British spy turned Soviet agent Guy Burgess. Suffice it to say that Troy is more than surprised when Burgess, who has escaped from the bosom of Moscow for a quick visit to Vienna, tells him something extraordinary: "I want to come home. As he fights to prove his innocence, Troy is haunted by more than just Burgess's past liaisons—there is a scandal that goes up to the highest ranks of Westminster, affecting spooks and politicians alike. And the stakes become all the higher for Troy when he re-encounters a woman he first met in the Ritz hotel during a blackout—falling in love is a handicap when playing the game of spies.

The treason of the Cambridge Five, and especially Guy Burgess, casts a long shadow over the life of Scotland Yard's Inspector Troy.
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London, As he fights to prove his innocence, Troy finds that Burgess is not the only ghost who has returned to haunt him. Part murder mystery, part spy tale, the book has a streak of wonderfully dark humor throughout. It is a wickedly seductive entertainment and more proof, if anyone needed it, that John Lawton is creating some of our finest, and some of our most enjoyably ambiguous historical fiction. Lawton, as in his previous Inspector Troy novels, is a master of creating a feeling of time and place, of amalgamating true-life events into his imaginative plot, of bringing every character, real or fictitious, major or minor, vividly to life.

Rate this book. Friends and Traitors is the eighth novel in the Inspector Troy series - which can be read in any order - a story of betrayal, espionage, and the dangers of love. London, Chief Superintendent Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard, newly promoted after good service during Nikita Khrushchev's visit to Britain, is not looking forward to a European trip with his older brother, Rod. Rod has decided to take his entire family on "the Grand Tour" for his fifty-first birthday: a whirlwind of restaurants, galleries, and concert halls from Paris to Florence to Vienna to Amsterdam. But Frederick Troy only gets as far as Vienna. It is there that he crosses paths with an old acquaintance, a man who always seems to be followed by trouble: British spy turned Soviet agent Guy Burgess.

3 thoughts on “Friends and Traitors (Inspector Troy, #8) by John Lawton

  1. John Lawton's Inspector Troy novels are regularly singled out as a crime series of exceptional quality, by critics and readers alike. Friends and Traitors is the.

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