Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Riptide is the second [chronologically after Second Violin] in the 'Troy' series of John Lawton's historical thrillers. 

Wolfgang Stahl [who we met in Second Violin as an observer of the Kristallnacht atrocities] had worked his way into the confidence of Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich but now exposed as an American agent he flees to Britain pursued by German agents. The man who ran Stahl from Zurich, the shy Captain Cal M. Cormack is sent to London to liaise with British Special Branch and bring Stahl safely in.
But there are bigger fish to fry as Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess lands in Scotland asking to speak to the Duke of Hamilton, and Cormack's mission is sidelined.

Cormack is teamed up with Special Branch's Walter 'Stinker' Stilton and they begin the search for Stahl amongst the bombed wreckage and refugee population of London. When Walter takes Cal home to meet his family the beautiful Kitty Stilton helps cement Anglo-American relations, while also resuming contact with ex boyfriend Sergeant Troy of the Murder squad.
When the search for Stahl go disastrously wrong Cormack is disowned by his embassy and is encouraged by Kitty to turn to Troy for assistance. 

I think my enjoyment of these books is greatly increased by having lived in London during the 1950's when the lifestyles, accents, attitudes and bomb damaged streets had not changed a great deal from wartime. [Bristol and Manchester also still had bomb sites in 1963]

This is a book with a complex plot and a myriad of minor characters making memorable cameo appearances, but that does not prevent it being an easy read. Look out for Lazarus and Moses Lippschitz Bespoke Tailors providing Cal with a 'ten bob' suit .

'Er......what colour's in this year?
'In?' said Mo. He wants to know vot is in. Khaki is in this year, that's vot's in!'
'Khaki I got ,'said Cal.

The stark juxtaposition of humour and the underlying threat of violence is a disconcerting but winning formula, and each of the main characters is drawn so clearly that the reader feels for them and is drawn in to their weird world. 

Walter Stilton, Kitty and Cormack  are the main characters in this novel with Troy pushed slightly into the background. John Lawton's message appears to be that the war after all was won by the working class, the Americans and the Russians, while the English aristocracy dined on smoked salmon and champagne. The book makes quite a good case that the wartime spirit of 'we are all in this together' was not what it seemed. The reader is immersed in all the intricacies of the debates on American isolationism, the British class system, Stalin's stupidity, Churchill and Roosevelt's duplicity and the cockney vocabulary. 
Although Riptide does not have quite the emotional impact of Second Violin this is still a brilliantly amusing thought provoking novel and I can't wait to carry on with the remaining four books in the series.

Riptide caught in a riptide
torn between two loves the old and the new
                                    Al Bowlly and the Lew Stone Orchestra 1934 


Blogger Kerrie said...

Norman, I appreciate your reviews of yet more books to add to my "wishlist"

12:58 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks very much Kerrie.
You are a very fast reader so I don't feel at all guilty.;o)

1:09 PM  

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