The Information Officer, after a brief prologue, is set in Malta 1942 at the height of the bombing raids by the Axis air forces. The eponymous hero of the novel Max Chadwick has the job of ensuring that the Maltese receive news that keeps up their morale.
When he discovers that local girls are being murdered by a serial killer who is probably a British officer he begins an investigation that is hampered by both the bombing, and his superiors. A submariner's shoulder flash found at the scene of one of the murders complicates the investigation as Max has had an affair with Mitzi Campion.
All roads led to the Upstanding, the submarine driven by Lionel 'Campers' Campion, lieutenant-commander and cuckold.
Max seeks help in his investigation from local connections of his Maltese girl friend Lilian, because he suspects several of his fellow British officers and also the enigmatic mysterious American liaison officer Elliott. At times the reader will even suspect Max.
I had a number of distractions while I was reading Mark Mills third novel. Some were pleasant a visit from daughter and granddaughter, and cricket watching some not so pleasant, but despite all this I really enjoyed the novel.
The author succeeded in capturing the atmosphere of tension of a people living under the threat of bombing, and the public school bonhomie among the British officers.
A subplot follows the childhood of the unnamed murderer and his descent to become a serial killer. We learn about the history of the island, the bravery of the Maltese people, and are given a full ration of war, crime mystery and a love interest as well. Max has a complicated love life:
...his thoughts turned to Max-handsome, hopeless Max, torn between two such different women.
Was he even aware of the scale of the cliche? It was a corny conundrum straight from the pages of Ivanhoe or Daniel Deronda: the young man whose heart is divided between the blonde embodiment of his own kind a a creature altogether more dark and exotic.
Sir Walter Scott and George Eliot had both chosen to throw a Jewess in the path of their hero. Max, it seemed, had fallen hard for a Maltese of mixed ancestry.
Mark Mills by putting these thoughts in the mind of his villain follows the tradition of John Buchan, and in the process creates a realistic period feel for his characters.
I found myself racing through to the end to uncover this murderer and although this novel was not in the very top class of historical crime fiction, because it tried to cover too much territory, I enjoyed it.