Series: Duncan Forrester
Book Number: 1
Read this book for: detailed historical setting, post-WWII espionage, whodunnit mystery, inclusion of historical figures
Quick Review: Packed with historical detail and people, and with a satisfyingly complex series of mysteries to solve, this book blends whodunnit and espionage for a light but interesting read.
Duncan Forrester, junior Ancient History Fellow at Oxford is back at his college in 1946 after years of war as a Special Operations Executive agent. One of his colleagues is murdered – and his best friend is accused of the crime. Following rumours of a mysterious Viking saga that could be connected to the murder and hoping to save his friend from the noose, Forrester sets out on a hunt across Europe for the truth, and discovers a plot larger than he expected which puts his own life in danger.
THE AGE OF TREACHERY is the first of the Duncan Forrester novels by Gavin Scott. Set just after the Second World War, it takes full advantage of the rich history of the period to craft a story that weaves together elements of a classic whodunnit and a spy novel to create a richly detailed and fairly believable historical world.
It is the history that is the most impressive part of this novel. The narrative is finely detailed, with references to specific landmarks that were damaged during WWII, accurate modes of travel, explanations of the cleanup efforts, hints at the political sentiments, and even mentions of contemporary posters and slogans. The level of research and effort at an accurate rendering of the period is incredible, and really helps to set the stage for the overall feel of the novel.
The history also extends to major figures of the time – and those that are even more famous now. JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Ian Fleming are just a few of the well-known historical figures that actually make appearances in THE AGE OF TREACHERY. The way they are written really allows you to connect to them, and Scott has put a lot of effort into capturing their interests and quirks in a fairly accurate way. It’s a gratifying touch, as they are not so prominent as to be unbelievable as part of the story; in fact, they fit perfectly within the narrative.
The narrative and plot are fairly simple, but still satisfyingly mysterious. The actual mechanism of the murder, as well as the motives and identity of the killer are all in question, along with the chain of larger events that Forrester finds himself caught in. While I love a complex plot, I felt like more time could have been devoted to each of the unknown elements; as it stood, so many factors were at play that it was hard to really get caught up in the need to know about one outstanding question. However, the novel is paced quickly enough that you keep turning pages right until the end.
I would love to see the characters – particularly Forrester – developed further in future volumes. Although there is lots of his backstory and we get to see his emotions and point of view, he still feels somewhat distant and hard to connect to. That, of course, is part of who he is, but I would really like to know more about him and what drives him. I hope we get to see more in future volumes!
Pick up THE AGE OF TREACHERY for an interesting and well-constructed dose of history along with your mysterious read!