A Time to Tell Lies by Alan Kennedy

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A Time to Tell Lies by Alan Kennedy

Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Rebecca Foster
Reviewed by Rebecca Foster
Summary: Captain Alex Vere and Justine Perry, fellow spies and lovers, move between England and France as part of a secret war effort. This solidly plotted and well-written World War II-era spy story compares favourably with the works of John le Carré and Kate Atkinson.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 286 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Lasserrade Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780993202322

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Psychologist Alan Kennedy's fifth novel continues the story he began with Lucy. In the autumn of 1942, Captain Alex Vere and Justine Perry are among the men and women picked up and taken to a stately home in Scotland, where they are trained in spy skills. After this first encounter, Alex is smitten yet uncertain if he will ever see Justine again. The spy's life is dangerous and unpredictable, after all. Six weeks later, though, they meet up again in southwest France, where they have been sent to collect Simone, a Special Operations Executive agent. It's Alex's first mission (Justine's fourth) and all goes horribly awry. Alex ends up in custody at the Gendarmerie, facing a German who knows he has a false passport.

When he next comes to consciousness, Alex is in a Southampton hospital. The trauma and a head wound have left him with partial amnesia. 'The immediate past remained a once-familiar place, endlessly taunting him: he lived with his life on the tip of his tongue.' Now the student – for he had been training as a psychologist before he joined the war effort – becomes the patient, as Dr Hoffman has regular psychoanalysis sessions with him.

With one failed mission behind him, Alex can never go back into the field in France. Instead, as soon as he recovers, Colonel Archer wants Alex's help questioning German prisoners. He also involves Alex in a top-secret disinformation campaign that involves inventing a German character. Meanwhile, Justine is sent back out on missions, and the lovers' true loyalties will be tested in an atmosphere where deception reigns. 'We're ordered to tell lies. You can't be selective about lies: Lie to one, lie to all, as the saying goes,' one of Alex's colleagues avers.

From page one the descriptive language and dialogue are strong, with the close third-person perspective shifting between the characters. On the sentence level, there is a pleasant variety in phrase length and structure. I especially liked the alliteration and word choice in 'That night there had been half a moon in a clear sky, an autumn moon catching the puddles on curfewed cobblestones.' A few of my other favourite lines were: 'If you get the scale right, destruction has a certain majesty to it', 'Truth's a funny thing', and 'Only a madman walks into the same trap twice.' I also admired the complexity of the storyline and the subtlety of the character interactions.

In draft form this novel was known as Alex, but I much prefer this new title: it's more resonant and intriguing; it draws you in to see what's going to happen with this unlikely pair of spies. In the end I thought this a solidly plotted, well-written World War II-era story that I would compare favourably with the works of John le Carré and Kate Atkinson. The ending certainly seems to allow for a continuation, so let's hope that the author may have a series, or at least a sequel, in the works.

Further reading suggestion: The author's previous book is Lucy. You may also like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

Buy A Time to Tell Lies by Alan Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Time to Tell Lies by Alan Kennedy at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy A Time to Tell Lies by Alan Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Time to Tell Lies by Alan Kennedy at Amazon.com.


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