Breckon, Ian - 'Knight of Swords'
In the winter of 1944 a British officer, Brookes, wounded and being hunted by Communist partisans, Fascist militiamen, and the German army, takes shelter in a crumbling castle in northern Italy. The family of the castle - a baron, his wife, his brother, and two children - obviously have a secret, and it becomes evident after a while that they're not so much sheltering as imprisoning him.
There seems to be a general rule in literature that any lone English person taken in by Italians will be prey to various attempts at manipulation, and KNIGHT OF SWORDS is no exception. Indeed, the title comes from a tarot reading made by the baron. The other family members also work on him in different ways.
The writing is generally good throughout, though some characters seem to be more sketchily drawn than others. There's a slightly dream-like quality to the whole enterprise, and an inevitability at the general course of events; this is effective writing, particularly in the early stages where Brookes is recovering from his wounds and has lost all track of time. Somehow this means that the revelations fail to astonish. Sadly. So though KNIGHT OF SWORDS is an engrossing read, as a thriller it doesn't really thrill.
Pedants' corner: if something existed in 1944 and exists (in modernised and improved form) today, but with a different name shouldn't a character in an historical thriller use the 1944 term for the specific item, not a generic term that wasn't used by anyone at the time? It doesn't do much for suspension of disbelief.
Rik Shepherd, England
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.