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A Lily of the Field: A Novel (Inspector Troy) Hardcover – October 5, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: Inspector Troy
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119568
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,179,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lawton has divided his atypical seventh Inspector Troy thriller (after Second Violin) in two. The first part, "Audacity," spans the years from 1934 to 1946, ranging from Vienna before the Anschluss to the site of the A-bomb test in the New Mexico desert. A straight historical narrative, it includes some powerful scenes, especially those at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, where musical prodigy Méret Voytek has been incarcerated, despite her not being Jewish. Robert Oppenheimer's role in developing America's nuclear weapons program proves relevant to the book's second half. In part two, "Austerity," set in 1948 London, Insp. Frederick Troy looks into the gunshot murder in the Underground of André Skolnik, a painter suspected of being a Soviet sleeper agent. Voytek, who survived Auschwitz, turns out to have a link to Skolnik. Those expecting a conventional crime novel should be prepared for two distinct stories with overlapping characters, only one of which involves a criminal investigation.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Lawton’s fifth Inspector Freddie Troy novel, starring the aristocratic Scotland Yard copper, is the best yet in a consistently strong series. Lawton has always pushed the boundaries of the series crime novel, edging ever closer to broad-canvas historical fiction, but this time he has leaped the fence altogether. Like Dennis Lehane in The Given Day (2008), Lawton introduces multiple characters and stories in a sweeping tale that comes together at a particular historical moment, but unlike Lehane, he does all that without abandoning his series hero or the continuity established in the previous volumes. Drawing on the events chronicled in his earlier novels, especially Second Violin (2008), set during WWII, Lawton moves seamlessly from Vienna in 1934, where we meet 10-year-old cello prodigy Meret Voytek and her teacher, renowned musician Viktor Rosen, to London in 1948, with stops along the way at Auschwitz and Los Alamos. Voytek and Rosen are reunited in London, where they meet Inspector Troy, himself an aspiring pianist, and become persons of interest in a murder investigation. Yes, in the end this is a cold war spy novel, but if postwar London—the world of Philby and Burgess, of perpetual shortages and rationing in a grayed-out country “sadly in need of a metaphoric, symbolic coat of paint”—is the historical spot on the map in which the story reaches its climax, it is but one of many interconnected points in time and space that form the rich fabric of a truly multitextured tale. --Bill Ott

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 46 customer reviews
This is the 7th book in the series but, chronologically, the 4th.
Robert Wehrle
The problem with this book is that all the central characters are people who are difficult if not impossible to like.
Anina
The characters are good and the intricate plot is very satisfying.
M. J. Newhouse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
All of us have authors (mostly writers of fiction) that we connect with, no matter the subject. John Lawton is one of those guys for me. There is something about how he evokes a sense of place, develops his characters, paces his stories and "period hops" that appeals to me pretty much through his entire literary output, and certainly when talking about the very excellent Inspector Freddie Troy series. "A Lily of the Field" is another John Lawton winner, in my opinion.

While this excellent new Inspector Troy murder/espionage novel stands very well on its own, it is something of a sequel to the last book in the series, "Second Violin". Both books focus, to a large degree, on the political and intellectual refugees who fled Austria to Britain in the 1930s (and after) and how they were treated at the hands of a very nervous British wartime government. An important sub-story here is an insightful look at the Holocaust and the treacherous and destructive way it operated in Austria and other countries. Like the other eight Troy stories, "A Lily..." is an intelligent mix of politics, culture and police procedural that spans places and periods from 1934 Vienna to 1948 London. Driving events are the Nazis moving toward domination of Europe and extermination of European Jewry and the expansion of the Soviet Union's efforts to carve out a protected and privileged position for communism in Europe and elsewhere. The characters in this novel are a mix of Lawton's regular subjects (the Troy family, old paramour, Larissa Tosca, the regulars of the London Police Force, etc. AND fictionalized versions of well-known musicians and scientists of the period. I suspect the extensive focus on music and musicians that is peculiar to this book reflects the author's own interest in classical and jazz forms.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Maine Colonial TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
War, revolution and persecution are near-constants in the lives of the characters in A LILY OF THE FIELD. Méret Voytek's family left eastern Europe for Vienna, city of cafés, theater, art and music, and home to many others who have fled political and ethnic persecution in other countries.

Vienna in 1934 is also home to Viktor Rosen, world-renowned pianist, a Jew and former German Oranienberg camp prisoner during the early days of Nazi Germany. Viktor and Méret come together as devoted teacher and pupil, but their work together ends when Viktor hears the drumbeat of approaching Nazism and flees to England. Despite trying to keep her head down and out of trouble, Méret is arrested and sent to Auschwitz. There, she is relatively lucky. As a non-Jewish political prisoner and talented musician, she is put in the Auschwitz orchestra.

London, like Vienna, is also home to many refugees. It was where Detective Inspector Frederick Troy's family landed after fleeing the Russian revolution and making stops in Vienna, where Troy's brother Rod was born, and Paris, where his twin sisters were born.

Wartime England treats its citizens and residents born in the Axis countries no better than the US did. Rod Troy is rounded up, along with Viktor Rosen, physicist Karel Szabo and many others, and interned on the Isle of Man and various other spots. They call themselves the Stinking Jews, regardless of actual religious affiliation, and the bonds they forge during internment continue even after the war.

After the war, Méret and Viktor and reunited in London and continue their musical careers, with Méret fulfilling her early promise as a celloist.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At their core, there is a natural connection between the hero of a police procedural and a historian. When the CSI team or Kay Scarpetta are confronted with a crime scene, they use their tools to lay open the past. Bit by bit, they move back and forth through time, figuring out who was in the room, what put them there, and the like, laying open the secrets of the victims and criminals alike.

That fascination with history is baked into the DNA of "A Lily of the Field." The lead character, Inspector Frederick Troy, is acutely aware of his family's own history as Russian emigres, reborn as English gentry, now finding themselves in a post-war world that has less and less use for gentry. Personally compelled to dig through others' history until he has solved crimes, Troy keeps his own secrets, some even from the readers.

The series as a whole jumps back and forth through Troy's history, and this book itself moves around more than most. While many detective novels will open with a crime, then spend the rest of the book allowing the protagonist to untangle that crime, this book opens with 150 pages of history, presented as a historical novel, then spends the rest following Troy as he untangles that history (and more, going back in some cases to the Russian revolution).

The first half barely mentions Troy at all, and instead follows two other characters from 1934 to 1946. It largely alternates between the viewpoints of those characters - Meret Voytek, a young Viennese cellist caught up in the German occupation of Austria; and Karel Szabo, a Hungarian physisist enmeshed in events on the Allied side of the conflict. The second half of the novel follows Troy as he wrestles with a crime that has Voytek and Szabo's history tangled up in its roots.
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