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The Company of Strangers

The Company of Strangers

3.5 2
by Robert Wilson

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Stunning European-based thriller from an acclaimed young British author: ‘A class act’ – Sunday Times; ‘First in a field of one’ – Literary ReviewLisbon 1944. In the torrid summer heat, as the streets of the capital seethe with spies and informers, the endgame of the Intelligence war is being silently fought.Andrea Aspinall,


Stunning European-based thriller from an acclaimed young British author: ‘A class act’ – Sunday Times; ‘First in a field of one’ – Literary ReviewLisbon 1944. In the torrid summer heat, as the streets of the capital seethe with spies and informers, the endgame of the Intelligence war is being silently fought.Andrea Aspinall, mathematician and spy, enters this sophisticated world through a wealthy household in Estoril. Karl Voss, military attaché to the German Legation, has arrived embittered by his implication in the murder of a Reichsminister and traumatized by Stalingrad, on a mission to rescue Germany from annihilation. In the lethal tranquility of this corrupted paradise they meet and attempt to find love in a world where no-one can be believed.After a night of extreme violence, Andrea is left with a lifelong addiction to the clandestine world that leads her from the brutal Portuguese fascist régime to the paranoia of Cold War Germany, where she is forced to make the final and the hardest choice.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
‘Displaying once again Wilson’s gifts for atmospheric depiction of place, this ambitious experiment is streets ahead of most other thrillers’ John Dugdale, Sunday Times‘With Company of Strangers Wilson again shows himself to be one of our finest writers and a storyteller with few equals’ Jim Driver, Time Out‘Wilson employs a slightly out-of-focus prose style that eminently suits his tale of intrigue and double-dealing … watch his star, for it is surely in the ascendent’ Vincent Banville, Irish Times‘Wilson’s tale is a plotter’s delight: spanning several decades and cleverly reworking past narratives in the light of new evidence, he creates an intriguing moral maze for his heroine to negotiate – and a puzzle of metaphors to match (he’s a better stylist than du Maurier). Recommended’ Chris Petit, Guardian‘A big, meaty novel of love and deceit … with this novel Wilson vaults to the front-rank of thriller writers’ Peter Guttridge, Observer
The Barnes & Noble Review
Award-winning British author Robert Wilson has crafted another intricate, powerful thriller -- a captivating blend of historical fiction, political intrigue, espionage, and passion. This tale begins early in the 1940s -- the world is at war, secrets are more valuable than currency, and love seems almost as impossible as peace. Physicist Karl Voss is a trusted, if junior, intelligence officer for the German army, facing the knowledge that the Nazi war machine is self-destructing. As the personal and political costs of the war soar, Voss becomes a double agent -- an enemy of the Nazi state, yet still a loyal defender of the German nation -- a role that necessitates lying to colleagues and enemies alike. His superiors place him in Lisbon, to facilitate secret communications with the Allies. Oxford-educated British mathematician Andrea Aspinall admires the simple elegance of numbers and the complexity of what they can express. Her brilliance and her loveliness, combined with fluency in German and Portuguese, make this young woman perfect for the spy game. Soon after leaving school, she's offered a job abroad…and a new identity. Officially, "Anne Ashworth" will be working for Shell Oil in Lisbon, a clandestine existence to cover Andrea's real work for the Company, untangling threads that could connect to German atomic research. Amid power plays and betrayals that blur the lines between friend and foe, Andrea and Karl make an unexpected and unsanctioned connection, learn that too little trust can kill as quickly as too much…and share secrets that still have power decades later. Sue Stone
Publishers Weekly
This tense thriller from the author of A Small Death in Lisbon (2000) mixes mathematics with wartime intrigue to fine effect. British intelligence hires Andrea Aspinall, a mathematical wunderkind, to make use of her extraordinary gift in hunting atomic secrets. But Andrea disappears in Lisbon, where she adopts a new identity and meets Karl Voss, an attach? at the German legation, who's plotting against the Nazis. The action shifts to Portugal and cold-war Berlin, where intrigue and counter-intrigue are routine, until a bleak ending brings the reader up short. The narrative spans the years from WWII to glasnost and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, yet for all the inevitable social commentary the novel remains at heart a conventional sociopolitical thriller with strong echoes of le Carr?, Ambler, Deighton and others not to mention Gravity's Rainbow. As the story lengthens and the calendar pages fall away, suspense inevitably slackens, though for the most part the novel remains supremely readable. Wilson's spare prose style never becomes skeletal, and the characters, while lightly sketched, remain believable. The author portrays Andrea in particular with sympathy and insight, and adumbrates her remarkable ability early on when she describes what might be called the joys of mathematics: "The number six... has three divisors one, two and three which if added together come to... six. Isn't that perfect?" The verdict: an evocative and compelling thriller. 5-city author tour; 75,000 first printing. (Oct. 19) Forecast: After the success of A Small Death in Lisbon, winner of Britain's CWA Gold Dagger Award, a lot is riding on this follow-up; expect sales to exceed those of the previous novel.Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins UK
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Robert Wilson has spent several years in West Africa, and he drew on this experience for his Bruce Medway novels. He and his wife now live in Portugal, where The Company of Strangers is partly set.

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The Company of Strangers 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Quirky book which keeps you reading. Sometimes the scenes seem too real and then it changes on the next page.Characters veer in and out of reality but there is an overall atmosphere that makes a world for itself in the imagination. It is a book to take on holiday and just wallow in. Voss and Andrea are two characters on the run from the same thing, history is just an incidental matter. These two would be fugitives anyway.
harstan More than 1 year ago
During World War II, British intelligence hires Andrea Aspinall, a mathematical wizard who thinks numbers are perfect. Andrea is to use her numerical skills to learn German atomic weaponry secrets. In Lisbon, Andrea vanishes under a new identity. She also meets German attaché Karl Voss, who believes the Nazis are losing the war and destroying Germany in their efforts to keep fighting. Karl and Andrea share a delightful night of lovemaking while violence flares everywhere. However, by morning¿s light Andrea has a secret to hide and an addict¿s thirst for more clandestine operations even if espionage is such an imperfect realm to this numerical expert. As the war ends and the Cold War heats up in places like divided Berlin, Andrea remains a prime player, whose past will soon catch up to her. Andrea is the numero uno of this exciting espionage thriller. From the beginning readers understand her as she joyfully explains the world in terms of the perfection of mathematical systems even if she fails to include the number six as a divisor into itself. The story line spans several decades, but though interesting and insightful also acts like a suspense thinner. Still readers will enjoy this action packed tale mindful of The Third Man because the novel contains people, including those individuals still out in the cold, that seem real. Readers will enjoy THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS and seek other works from Robert Wilson (see A SMALL DEATH IN LISBON). Harriet Klausner