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Lying with the Enemy Hardcover – November 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers; 1st Carroll & Graf ed edition (November 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786706570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786706570
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,917,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jodie S. Holmberg on April 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What a pleasure. A mystery that's beautifully written. The writer's love of words, phrases, construction of plot and sensual headiness of book-making is contagious and warranted. I, too, was perplexed by the many omissions of words, grammatical eye-stoppers and at times archaicisms. I was glad to see your first reviewer picked up on it, too. If only there were more hours in the day, it would be intriguing to find the cause of such puzzlingness.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bucherwurm on January 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is 1943 and the German army maintains its relatively peaceful occupation of the British island of Guernsey. How do citizens react to such life when their only real hardship seems to be a lack of certain foods? Surprisingly many women become collaborators, and indeed do "lie" with the enemy. The most evident male vice during these times seems to be greed, as they industriously establish a black market industry, and again collaborate with the enemy as they do so. No one much seems interested in emulating the nearby French Resistance. A prime example of Guernsey sabotage is when one local mows the grass landing strip extra short so that plane wheels won't get quite so good a purchase on the ground.
The book involves a murder, which flows through the book more as an undercurrent than as the prime plot. Much of this tale involves getting to know the characters, German as well as British. I quite enjoyed this story of what life might have been like in a backwater setting during this global catastrophe. That is not to say that I wasn't also a bit disappointed. We get to know a few of the women who become intimately involved with German officers, but we never are led to an understanding of what motivates them. One gets the feeling that they simply lacked much choice among the Guernsey men, but the population of the island isn't that small. Getting to know people isn't necessarily the same as understanding what makes them tick.
Thriller lovers beware; this book bears no resemblance to a Jack Higgins escapade. It's a well-written book that moves along at a leisurely pace.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Denise Bentley on June 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
World War II is raging on all fronts in Europe. The Nazis have set up camp on the tranquil Island of Guernsey off the coast of England. The island people have succumbed to the enemy, and exist to the best of their ability during a time of food rationing, shortages, and at times occupation of their homes. Adaptation is a necessity and the black market is in full gear.
Our story revolves around a gruesome murder. The possibilities are endless as the author introduces you to the many characters on the stage he sets. There is much fraternization with the Nazis and many people on the island hold grudges. The story turns into a tangled web of espionage and intrigue that culminates in a satisfying finish.
I would rate this book a 3.5 if I had that option. In the reading of it I found some chapters to be fragmented and disjointed making for a loss of that smooth transition I enjoy when an author writes from the perspective of many different characters. Kelsana 6/14/01
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "kriksubnav" on October 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I picked up the British edition which is called "Island Madness" and thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The Nazis are presented as fully developed characters, not just the "bad guys" because bad guys exist on both sides in this book. Now go read "The Book of Ebenezer LePage" by G. B. Edwards, the memoirs of an old Guernsey man recounting over 80 yrs of Guernsey life in a circular and fascinating way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Fred Camfield on October 4, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is an interesting story set on the Island of Guernsey circa early 1943. When the British evacuated from the island in 1940, many residents stayed behind. They are now in dire straits. The German occupiers limit their food rations to the point that residents are driven to desperate measures to survive. There is a thriving black market. Attractive women, and even some not so attractive, augment their food rations by consorting with German soldiers, particularly officers who can supply their needs.

There is a split in the German command. Major Lentsch is an administrative officer, but has no control over the construction operations fortifying the island, and no control over the head of the German police. Ned Luscombe, a British police officer trapped on the island when he stayed behind during the evacuation, has been made the local police inspector after mass arrests of members of the police force. When Lentsch's woman friend Isobel is murdered, and her body dumped in a German fortification off limits to the Guernsey civilians, Ned is given the job of investigating the case (Isobel had at one time been a love interest of Ned).

There is a large cast of characters hard to keep track of - native islanders, Germans, and forced laborers brought in by the Germans to build the fortifications. Everyone has his or her own agenda. The story is interrupted by a large number of flashbacks to explain past events and relationships. It is a slow read, and it is sometimes difficult to maintain an understanding of a plot element.

The Germans are losing the war, having suffered big defeats at Stalingrad and in North Africa. Some, like Lentsch, see the handwritten on the wall. Others remain rabid Nazi's loyal to Hitler. In the meantime, the murder case in turning over stones exposing other crimes. There is a somewhat surprising ending.
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