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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*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