Where Dead Men Meet - Mark Mills

It was a dark & stormy night.….no, really. Late one evening in 1912 Sister Agnes answered a knock at the door of St. Theresa’s Orphanage. The first thing she saw was a shadowy figure standing in the distance. The second was a baby boy left on the step.  Maybe that’s why she & the newly christened Luke went on to develop such a strong bond. Even after he was adopted, she continued to be a fixture in his life as he grew up.

 

By 1937, Luke is working as a minor intelligence officer at the British Embassy in Paris when he gets the news. Sister Agnes has been murdered. Luke is devastated & has no idea her death is a harbinger that his easy life in Paris is over.

 

He meets the mysterious Borodin who warns Luke his life is in danger. But who is he & why does he want to help? Before Luke can figure it out, he & Borodin are on the run after several attempts on their lives. Luke ends up on the Swiss-Austrian border where he meets Pippi, a woman dedicated to helping Jews escape from Germany. The fallout from their adventures only makes his situation worse but it also provides some shocking answers to how he ended up at the orphanage.

 

 

Ooooh lawdy, this is a humdinger. It all kicks off when powerful men in another country stumble across a 25 year old secret. There are multiple narrators so at times we know more than Luke. Or do we? All of these people have personal agendas & are driven by self preservation. They change their stories like their clothes & it’s impossible to know who to trust. It’s clear early on that Luke’s real identity is at the root of all the mayhem & it’s a harrowing ride to the truth.

 

The author makes effective use of the era as a backdrop to the primary plot. Hitler is beginning to flex his muscles & there are ominous rumblings about the treatment of German Jews. As the action moves through France, Austria, Switzerland & Italy, it feels like all of Europe is holding its breath in the prelude to WWII. This creates a subtle underlying tension that adds to the suspense of Luke’s story.

 

Although few of the characters are actually spies there’s a definite espionage vibe to the story. The major characters are well developed & Luke is a sympathetic leading man. Multiple twists & double crosses keep you guessing who will survive as the characters converge at the final destination.

 

By the end, all Luke’s questions are answered & there are hints that a sequel may follow. It’s a fast paced, entertaining story that holds your attention. Fans of period thrillers, particularly those by John le Carre´ or Robert Harris, will find much to enjoy here.

 

 

    

 

Postcard from 1937 Paris Exposition shows the Soviet & German pavilions glaring at each other across the plaza.