In Lying with the Enemy
, Tim Binding has written a novel that is part war story, part murder mystery, and wholly compelling. Set on Guernsey during the final years of World War II, the story traces the impact of German occupation in the British Channel Islands on both conquerors and conquered alike. Binding makes it clear that the Nazi presence on Guernsey was a fairly civilized affair from the get-go; aside from an abortive raid shortly after the Germans invaded in 1940, the British surrendered the Channel Islands to the enemy, leaving their residents to forge an uneasy accommodation with their new masters. By 1943, when Binding's novel begins, the Germans have been on Guernsey for three years and an inevitable degree of fraternization has become the norm. This is especially apparent in the complicated relationship between Major Lentsch, his island-born lover, Isobel van Dielen, and her former flame (and Guernsey's current chief constable) Ned Luscombe. When Isobel is murdered early on in the proceedings, it is up to Ned to solve the crime--a task that throws him into a reluctant liaison with his rival. As he and Lentsch join forces, their investigation leads them into the back-street world of twisted passions and unholy alliances among islanders and occupiers alike. Meanwhile, the professional association between a world-weary cop and a Nazi-hating German officer turns gradually into a fast though unlikely friendship. Lying with the Enemy
is both fine historical fiction and a remarkably acute study of the troubling choices essentially good people make when trapped in morally ambiguous circumstances. --Sheila Bright
From Publishers Weekly
The notion of how Britain might have fared under German occupation has been explored in speculative fiction before, but it is often forgotten that the British Channel Islands, lying offshore from France, were in fact occupied by the Nazis during WWII. Out of that oddity British novelist Binding (In the Kingdom of the Air) has fashioned a highly readable but strangely hybrid sort of book, part murder mystery, part romance, part a study of duty and obsession. The German commander on the island of Guernsey, gentlemanly and artistic Major Lensch, is in love with a local girl, who is found brutally murdered, her body thrown down a tunnel in the German fortifications. Inspector Ned Luscombe, who had also been fond of the girl, has to try to carry out his investigations alongside the occupiers and pick his way among a maze of resentments as sullen islanders watch many of their women turn into romantic collaborators. But the time is 1943, and already it looks as though the tide is beginning to turn against the uneasy Germans. Perhaps Hitler will visit the island, in which case tough old gardener Albert, who has nothing much to live for since his beloved daughter evacuated to England, has prepared an unpleasant surprise for him. Binding paints a thoroughly convincing picture of the odd relationships of the island's upper crust and the invaders, with authentic details of wartime life (particularly an unlikely passion for impossible-to-obtain Bird's Custard, which plays a major role in the plot). But despite some tense and touching scenes, the narrative seems unresolved, as if the author could not make up his mind which of his many absorbing plot lines he should concentrate on.
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