Loyal readers of Allan Massie will already know of his assurance and dexterity as a historical novelist, whether in ancient Rome or modern Europe. And they will be delighted to learn that this stylish, atmospheric, satisfying policier is the first of three to feature Superintendent Lannes. In snobbish Bordeaux, the action unfolds in spring and summer 1940.
The rout of the French forces and the first days of collaboration with German invaders mean that his murder investigations unroll against a backdrop of panic and chaos. Massie shows with keen insight how daily life stumbles on in apocalypse, while as the case takes Lannes to the "make-believe town" of Vichy, crime and war shockingly embrace.