THE SHADOW OF THE MOTH by Ellen & Peter Manso Hawkes

THE SHADOW OF THE MOTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Novel of Espionage with Virginia Woolf""--slightly better on Woolf & Co. than on the espionage. This is Virginia at 35 in 1917, recovering from a nervous breakdown, hovered over by husband Leonard. And, in the authors' imaginary scenario, Virginia--herself always a potential suicide--becomes obsessed with the newspaper report of a Belgian refugee's drowning-suicide. She visits the newspaper offices; she visits the home of Sir Henry Cranford--where the refugee, Anna Michaux, worked as a governess. She gets help from comely young US newswoman Bobble Waters--to whom Virginia confides (with not-quite-convincing casualness) her lesbian tendencies. But, despite obvious attempts at coverup, Virginia and Bobble begin to suspect that Anna's death was murder--especially when Virginia, on a sleuthing trip to France, is nearly murdered herself. And soon, having learned that Anna was a Belgian spy, Virginia is finding bodies, decoding secret messages, wondering which English noblemen are traitors, and which spies are double-agents or triple-agents. Meanwhile, of course, there are well-researched glimpses of everyone from Maynard Keynes and Roger Fry to Lady Ottoline and unlikable brother-in-law Clive Bell (who turns out to have been a dupe of the villains); so Bloomsburyists may find the literary/social scene intermittently appealing, even if the quasi-feminist portrait of Virginia--a vibrant soul dampened by the male-chauvinist coddling from Leonard and the doctors--is more than a little over-simplified. As espionage suspense, however, this is slow and second-rate--with predictable twists, belabored red herrings, and an interminable, talky showdown/finale.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's