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Friends and Traitors (Inspector Troy) Hardcover – October 3, 2017
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Praise for Friends and Traitors:
Top 12 Mystery Novels of 2017, Strand Magazine
“Friends and Traitors is Lawton’s latest entry in the series, and one of the best. Part murder mystery, part spy tale, the book has a streak of wonderfully dark humor throughout . . . Lawton’s writing here is as sharp as ever . . . 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.”―Benedict Cosgrove, Washington Post
“Friends and Traitors is the latest in [Lawton’s] splendid Inspector Frederick Troy series, an artful blend of two ever-popular subjects: espionage and British police work . . . It’s an extraordinary story―both in history and Lawton’s bold re-imagining. It’s been told many times before, in both fiction and non-fiction, but Lawton has a fresh approach, shaping Friends and Traitors as more of a character study than a standard-issue thriller.”―Adam Woog, The Seattle Times
“Mr. 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. His writing is enormously colorful, his descriptions, whether of people, places or events inevitably convincing . . . Reading this narrative is like watching a newsreel and being sucked into the action. The surprises keep coming, not merely up to the last chapter but even to the novel’s very last line.”―Robert Croan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“The lives of Scotland Yard detective Frederick Troy and real-life historical figure Guy Burgess, the English traitor who spied for the Russians, intersect in Lawton’s superb eighth Inspector Troy novel . . . [a] smart, fascinating historical thriller.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Our fascination with the Cambridge Five―British spies recruited to serve the Soviet Union while still at university―continues unabated into the twenty-first century; recently attention has shifted [to] Guy Burgess, perhaps the most compelling character of the lot . . . Lawton traces Burgess’ flamboyant life as a dissolute and indiscreet diplomat whose wit and charm somehow managed to shine through the alcoholic haze that constantly enveloped him . . . Burgess emerges as a thoroughly engaging antihero.”―Booklist (starred review)
“Burgess makes a delicious antagonist in this eighth installment in the franchise . . . Lawton, who writes with rueful acumen, puts a human face on the moral and political complexities of the Cold War.”―Kirkus Reviews
Praise for The Unfortunate Englishman:
“[Then We Take Berlin and The Unfortunate Englishman] are meticulously researched, tautly plotted, historical thrillers in the mold of World War II and Cold War fiction by novelists like Alan Furst, Phillip Kerr, Eric Ambler, David Downing and Joseph Kanon.”―Wall Street Journal
“[A] superlative Cold War espionage story . . . Lawton’s gift for memorable atmosphere and characters, intelligent plotting and wry prose put him solidly at the top of anyone’s A-list of contemporary spy novelists.”―Adam Woog, Seattle Times
“A stylish spy thriller . . . as essential as the Troy books . . . Both series benefit from the excellence of Lawton’s writing . . . All these adventures arrive gift-wrapped in writing variously rich, inventive, surprising, informed, bawdy, cynical, heartbreaking and hilarious. However much you know about postwar Berlin, Lawton will take you deeper into its people, conflicts and courage . . . Spy fiction at its best.”―Washington Post
“[A] stylish, richly textured espionage novel . . . With The Unfortunate Englishman, Lawton shows himself to be the master of colorful, unpredictable characters . . . His crowning achievement is Joe Wilderness [who is] loaded with personal charm and animal magnetism . . . Lawton brilliantly weaves real historical events into the narrative . . . His novel is a gripping, intense, inventive, audacious, wryly humorous, and thoroughly original thriller.”―Open Letters Monthly
“Outstanding . . . Real historical events―the building of the Berlin wall, J.F.K.’s visit there―lend verisimilitude to Joe’s attempt at one last big scam. Intricate plotting, colorful characters, and a brilliant prose style put Lawton in the front rank of historical thriller writers.”―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Lawton gets the Cold War chill just right, leading to yet another tense exchange across a Berlin bridge, but unlike, say, the film Bridge of Spies, the principals here are not freighted with moral rectitude but, rather, exude a hard-won cynicism in conflict with dangerously human emotions. The result is a gripping, richly ambiguous spy drama featuring a band of not-quite-rogue agents that will find genre fans reaching for their old Ross Thomas paperbacks to find something comparable.”―Booklist (starred review)
“Wilderness is the perfect Cold War protagonist. With his second adventure (Then We Take Berlin, 2013), Lawton bids fair to build a compelling rival to his seven-volume Troy series.”―Kirkus Reviews
“Even reviewers have favourites and John Lawton is one of mine. Nobody is better at using historical facts as the framework of a really good story.”―Literary Review (UK)
“The tone of unsentimental realpolitik means The Unfortunate Englishman earns the right to that le Carré-esque title . . . A complex and beautifully detailed tale, a full-blooded cold-war spy thriller given an added dimension courtesy of Wilderness’s quirky humour and his pragmatic take on morality and honour.”―Irish Times
“Berlin and Moscow again, joined by London in The Unfortunate Englishman, a cleverly misleading title, one of the many twists in John Lawton’s constantly entertaining Cold War saga . . . The spying detail is well mixed with humour.”―Times (UK)
“For those who want a bit of substance to their thriller reading . . . This is an atmospheric and convincing novel . . . The plotting is complex . . . [and] enjoyable, and few authors are as good as Lawton in framing their novels around interesting historical facts . . . Wilderness is a very engaging hero . . . The period detail is subtle and convincing and there are also some nice touches of humour and fascinating glimpses of real historical figures . . . A treat from beginning to end.”―Sydney Morning Herald
“Lawton [is] possibly one of the most under-appreciated British espionage writers . . . Nowhere as heroic as Le Carré or Deighton, Lawton confronts the absurdities and weaknesses of his highly fallible characters alongside the dangers of the Cold War. Endearing and all too human, as if Smiley was both morally flexible and at times a figure of fun!”―Love Reading
“John Lawton . . . manages to weave together all the elements of a le Carré-style Cold War thriller with the tough strands of good old-fashioned criminality. Joe Wilderness is every bit as brave, clever, devious―and anti-heroic―as the most famous black marketeer of all―Harry Lime himself.”―Crime Fiction Lover
“Lawton’s characters are so intriguing, they will undoubtedly send the reader looking for the first in the series, Then We Take Berlin. The Unfortunate Englishman is a spy novel in the best le Carré fashion . . . the chillingly realistic mind-games, intrigue, and political maneuvering of the Cold War era . . . Beautifully done and well written. Lawton deftly picks up the loose ends of the story and weaves them into a captivating narrative that keeps the reader hooked . . . An informative and entertaining read.”―Killer Nashville (Book of the Day)
“[A] stylish new espionage thriller . . . Joe is as smart, conflicted and cynical as any Raymond Chandler character . . . It’s hard to find a more fascinating time and place than Cold War Berlin, but Lawton still uses his narrative skills to transform history into gripping fiction . . . Lawton is a master at weaving the historical facts into the threads of his fictional story and bringing both to vivid life.”―Read Me Deadly
About the Author
John Lawton has written seven previous Inspector Troy thrillers, two novels starring Joe Wilderness, one standalone novel, and a volume of history. His Inspector Troy novels have been named Best Books of the Year by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times Book Review. He lives in England.
Top customer reviews
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Friends and Traitors presents Troy’s tepid friendship throughout the years from their meeting in 1935 to the day Burgess infamously defected to the Soviet Union with MacLean, one of the Eton spies whose betrayal encompassed a third man, a fourth, and possibly several more. You would think having defected and decamped to Russia, Burgess would finally stop impinging on Troy’s life, but no such luck.
Burgess misses England and wants to come home and the person he reaches to for help is Troy, embroiling him in a murder and bringing him under suspicion of being another in the cluster of traitors. Can Troy clear himself and find the real murderer?
Friends and Traitors is John Lawton’s eleventh novel and his eighth featuring Inspector Troy. As the series progresses, each book tosses away more and more of the conventions of genre fiction. If this book were a singleton – not part of a series – it would be classified as literary fiction examining the role of identity, family, patriotism, and honor in Cold War England. The fact of being a spy is central to Burgess’ identity and his role in the story, but the particulars of his espionage are immaterial. The murders come very late and are not the purpose of the story which is really about Troy figuring out more about himself and what he values.
Lawton has incorporated real historical figures in his books in the past, though never quite so completely as he has with Guy Burgess, the spy. He does it very well and Burgess’ charm and pitiable state come through along with his vulgarity, making it easy to understand how Troy could enjoy him and pity him while also slightly disliking him all at the same time.
I have loved this series since its inception. Troy is a complicated character, compromised by his affection for others, by love and loyalty that is personal rather than patriotic. He does not just sail close to the wind, he risks being blown off course. I enjoy this series and would love to see them in a Masterpiece Mystery series though it’s possible Troy with his empathy for friends and traitors like Guy Burgess is too complicated for television.
I received an advance e-galley of Friends and Traitors from Atlantic Grove through NetGalley
Friends and Traitors at Grove Atlantic
John Lawton author site
The Troy series has a habit of hopping around chronologically, from the 1930s into the 1950s/60s and back again. Familiar characters float through the series--stars in one installment, cameos in another. "Friends..." is very much in this vein. The novel opens in 1935, as the wealthy and prominent Troy family (father is a press lord) entertains at its country estate. Among the A and B listers there as guests is Guy Burgess, an intellectual gadfly, enthusiastic violator of British cultural norms (of the time), dedicated alcoholic.and eventually headed toward infamy as a Soviet spy who will defect to Moscow. The well-born and connected Burgess is known by all to be unabashedly and openly homosexual--something that in 1930s England could get you killed, tossed in jail or unemployed. On the other hand, if you were from the right school (Eton,Cambridge, Oxford, etc.) and well-born, polite society tended to ignore your gender preference. Weirdly enough, Burgess, the flambuoyant gay intellectual and the determinedly heterosexual London cop, Freddie Troy, become friendly acquaintances and the first half of the book is a series of vignettes that document their encounters over 20 years.
Eventually the story turns to Burgess' slouch toward defection and exile in the USSR. By this time, Troy has become a senior police official at Scotland Yard and his brother Rod is in line to become a cabinet official if the Labor Party wins the next election. Past connections to Communist spies and gay men can have consequences for both men in the less tolerant 1950s. And this is where a skillful tale of espionage and high-level international politics kicks in. Rather a brilliant second half to the tale. Great character interaction and clever plot twists.
"Friends and Traitors" is hard to put down, once started. Lawton's convincing political contexts, fleshed-out and larger than life characters and often chatty writing style make his books irresistible for any fan of the genre, but also to the general reader. A great read this.