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A LILY OF THE FIELD by John Lawton


by John Lawton

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8021-1956-8
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Inspector Troy probes a murder with tangled roots in the recently ended Second World War.

The seventh Frederick Troy thriller (Second Violin, 2008, etc.) brings the London DCI in for the second half of the story. London, 1948. Viktor Rosen shares with mentor André Skolnik his intention to leave the Communist Party. André firmly advises that the Party doesn't work that way. Story flashes back to Vienna in 1934, where Viktor, a Jew in exile from Germany, is the mentor of cello prodigy Méret Voytek, just ten years old. His cloudy past is said to have involved an escape from the Nazis. The German war machine is headed east, a reality that Méret's parents try to shield from her. One day, Viktor simply vanishes. Méret joins the Vienna Youth Orchestra and, not long after, the Orchestra becomes an arm of the Hitler Youth. On her 20th birthday, she is taking the train home when she has the bad luck to see her friend Roberto shot by Nazis. In short order, both Méret and fellow musician Magda are arrested and ultimately end up at Auschwitz. Their musical artistry allows them to survive. When Méret pines for her beautiful cello, it's brought to her; she realizes with horror that her parents must be dead. Eventually, Méret and Magda are rescued (though later separated) by Russian soldiers. Méret lands in Paris, where she lives among artists for awhile, until the time comes to repay her rescuers. Most of the first half of the novel deals with Méret, but there's some tracking of Viktor as a spy in London, as well as Hungarian scientist Dr. Karel Szabo, transplanted to New Mexico to help develop the atomic bomb. Days after the prologue meeting between Viktor and André, the latter is found murdered in his art studio and Troy catches the case.

Another complex and compellingly readable historic thriller from Lawton, full of profound questions and memorable characters.