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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
“Friends and Traitors represents much more than a police procedural or spy thriller . . . The author does a superb job of portraying the mood, class culture and tensions that existed in England and Europe during that era.”―Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine (starred)
“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.
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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.
The series is set mostly in London and environs from the late 30's to the very early 60's. Troy is a detective on the murder squad, perhaps responsible for a murder or two of his own. What set the series apart for me was the London WWll settings, the bombings, the blackouts, underground shelters, the dignity and resolve of the Brits, and the convoluted plots. Troy is a son in a successful, monied, Russian ex-pat family. Brother Rod is a high ranking member of the Brit government. Dad ran an influential journal and knew everybody. Brit PMs were frequent cast members, often guests at dinner , like Harold MacMillan. Troy also had opportunities to meet with Joe Kennedy, Winston, Nikita.... And then there are Freddie's twin sisters, Sasha and Masha, fun girls who still like to roam the mansion late at night naked as the day they were born. And sometimes the three of them go a bit too far.
The Troy series is an incredible bowl of spaghetti. You might be reading merrily along and find that the story has leapt ahead five years, then back eight years and a character is introduced whom you know will die because she died in the previous book. Lawton began another series in 2013 with a character named Joe Wilderness, who plays a role in guess what? yes FT. Unfortunately, The Wilderness books didn't interest me all that much.
So what's FT about? Guy Burgess of all people, as in Burgess, Maclean, Philby, the notorious spy triple of England 50s and 60s. Troy meets Guy at the house, at a dinner party of course, and doesn't much care for him. Guy makes little secret of the fact that he is "queer" and Troy quickly establishes that he is not. As a matter of fact, Troy dates a number of vibrant women in this book just as he has in the other seven. His marital status is unclear; technically he is still married to Tosca who may or may not be a spy for the Russians. Troy hasn't seen her for almost two years. Guy enjoys guys and lots of booze, lots. Troy and Guy keep bumping into each other in popular members only clubs of varied repute over the ensuing years, and it's clear that although Burgess may be a spy he doesn't seem capable of doing much harm and after all, whom would you tell? On a somewhat spur of the moment moment Guy and Maclean defect, then soon go their separate ways.
Sometime later, Troy becomes aware that Guy misses London and wants to come back. And the story gets even more interesting. I enjoyed FT very much, it's 4 1/2 stars, and I hope there are more to come. FT doesn't quite maze all around like the first six Troys and that's unfortunate, I still enjoyed the trip back in time. And before too long I will probably reread the whole series, maybe in order this time.