Friends and Traitors

Friends and Traitors

John Lawton
ARRSE Rating
2 Mushroom Heads
This is a novel from a series of books concerning Detective Chief Superintendant Frederick Troy, there have been several books in the series, which has been well received but which I have not read. I found this book a bit difficult to read, the storyline was good but the writing was patchy, more on this later.

The book covers the period from 1939, when Troy is a newly appointed constable through to the mid 1960’s when the Cold War was at its height. Troy comes from a very well connected family of émigrés who through the series of books has worked himself up through the ranks of the Metropolitan Police. He lives and works in the world of the louche middle class in London and the descriptions of the scene bother during and after WW2 are very livid and interesting. The main subject of this book is the defection of Guy Burgess. Troy knew Burgess well and his homosexual proclivities, which Burgess did absolutely nothing to hide. The book spends quite a bit of time on this! Anyway, as we know, Burgess fled the country to Russia but some time later he missed the life he used to live and wanted to return to the UK, the Prime Minister, MacMillan, is determined that Burgess does not return to Britain.

Moving between London, Vienna, Moscow and other European capitals Troy is drawn into the murky world of spies with bodies regularly turning up. Troy is torn between his role in investigating murders and maintaining the wishes of the PM not to allow Burgess back. There are bits of the story which get very intense and consequently interesting. The author has taken actual events and woven them into this novel and as we know, Burgess never did get back to London, dying in Russia a lonely old man.

The story describes the murky underworld of London in the days when who you knew meant that one could get away with just about anything. Burgess, a suave, personable person but passing over secrets to the Soviets fitted in very well to this scene and the author does an excellent job of describing this world and atmosphere of 50s/early 60s London.

As I said I found this book difficult to read and stay on thread which bugged me a bit. I took a look at some of the reviews of the book, nearly all very good reviews, and it started to become clear. Coupled with an Afternote by the author where he explains that this novel has taken some time to finish, writing a couple of others in the series while keeping this one on the back burner. In my opinion that shows in the writing. As I said the book has rave reviews on Amazon and other areas and the author has a very loyal following but some characters were killed off who left me slightly confused as sometimes it seemed slightly out of line with the book story; apparently they were killed in a previous novel and reintroduced to this one. The book is a stand alone story though and can be read as such but I feel had I read the series I would be more in line with the character Troy and has background thus I found the book somewhat patchy to read. As such I did not enjoy this book as much as I feel I should have so only 2 Mr MRHs from me.

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