A Lily of the Field (Inspector Troy Series)

( 10 )


The book opens with a prologue set in a London park in 1948: two men named Viktor and Andre Skolnik are talking. Viktor wishes to be released from his service to the Communist party. Andre says this is impossible.

Back in 1934, in Vienna, 10 year-old Meret Voytek, daughter of a Hungarian theatre director, becomes a pupil of esteemed musician Professor Viktor Rosen, a Jew in exile from Germany. He becomes her mentor, educating her in politics and training her to be a ...

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The book opens with a prologue set in a London park in 1948: two men named Viktor and Andre Skolnik are talking. Viktor wishes to be released from his service to the Communist party. Andre says this is impossible.

Back in 1934, in Vienna, 10 year-old Meret Voytek, daughter of a Hungarian theatre director, becomes a pupil of esteemed musician Professor Viktor Rosen, a Jew in exile from Germany. He becomes her mentor, educating her in politics and training her to be a concert-worthy cellist. In November 1937, aware that the Nazis are advancing, Rosen tells Meret he must leave Vienna for London. When Vienna quietly comes under Nazi rule, Meret witnesses the repercussions for the city’s Jews, but when her orchestra becomes a division of the Hitler Youth, she complies and wears the uniform.

It is June 1940 and Dr. Karel Szabo, a Hungarian physicist, has been interned in a camp on the Isle of Man, where other detainees include Rosen and an Englishman of Russian birth, Rod Troy. Szabo is transported to Canada and once there is contacted by the US government: they want him for the atomic program. He joins the team assembled by Leo Szilard, a physicist he knew in England, and begins a relationship with Zette Borg, another colleague. Over the years their work progresses.

In 1944, still in Vienna, Meret is taken prisoner when she is found in the company of a fellow musician who is a resistance fighter. She is taken to Auschwitz but is saved from death by an old friend, Magda Ewald, a fellow prisoner who says the concentration camp orchestra needs a cellist. When her cello arrives at the camp from her house in Vienna, she realizes her parents have been killed. As the Russians advance in 1945, Auschwitz is abandoned and Meret and Magda are found by a Russian commander, Major Larissa Tosca, who coerces Meret into becoming a Russian spy.

Szabo and his colleagues watch the first atomic bomb test in a desert in New Mexico. He tells Zette about the petition Leo’s team has signed asking the government never to use the bomb.

Meret is transferred, via Poland and Vienna, to Paris where she is in the charge of a Russian artist – and spy – named Serge. She meets a Frenchman she knew from Auschwitz but he has not recovered and on a subsequent meeting commits suicide in front of her. Finally she journeys to London to meet Rosen, who previously has begun giving piano lessons to Rod Troy’s younger brother, one Frederick Troy, a Scotland Yard detective.

Time moves forward to 1948 and the prologue is repeated: the man named Viktor is Rosen; he has been a Communist spy since 1918.

Troy is called to investigate the death of Andre Skolnik., whom Troy’s colleague Fish Wally suspects was a Russian agent. Wally’ suspicions are confirmed when Troy is approached by Milos Danko, a Czechoslovakian agent enquiring about Skolnik’s death. MI5 want to close the case, but Troy is spurred on by the discovery that the gun used to shoot Skolnik once belonged to a Russian Princess. While holidaying with Anna, a love-interest, Troy gets a sudden phone call: Viktor Rosen has been found shot in his apartment. Troy is hesitant to accept the verdict of suicide. After Rod tells him of Rosen’s affair with Meret, he interviews her, beginning a tentative friendship. Meanwhile, it is in the newspapers that Szabo has admitted passing information on the atomic bomb to the Russians.

Troy’s colleague Kolankiewicz turns up a new clue linking the two deaths: Rosen’s hip flask bears Skolnik’s prints. When Troy hears a recording of Meret and Rosen playing on the radio, he discovers a code in their alterations to the piece. As he begins to piece everything together, he is visited again by Danko, seeking vengeance for Skolnik’s death, and is forced to kill him and his henchmen in self-defence. Troy goes to meet Meret, who has also been visited by the Czechs, and confronts her about spying for the Russians. She admits everything, including that she killed Skolnik and outed Szabo in an attempt to allow her and Viktor to cut their ties. Meret leaves for Russia where she believes her high profile will keep her safe once she is publicly denounced and can no longer be used as a spy. She leaves Troy with a letter to give to the British press, along with the pawn ticket for her precious cello.

The newspapers carry the story of Meret and Rosen being spies, and Meret seems to have escaped in time. The book ends with two letters sent by Szabo from prison, one begging understanding for his actions, the other to Meret, who is revealed to be his cousin, promising that they will one day be free.

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Editorial Reviews

Gerald Bartell
If the previous seven installments in John Lawton's Inspector Troy series haven't made the point adequately, the eighth, A Lily of the Field, makes it again, and solidly: Lawton's thrillers provide a vivid, moving and wonderfully absorbing way to experience life in London and on the Continent before, during and after World War II…The book's first half follows the suspenseful narratives of a gallery of characters the reader comes to care about greatly as they face the oncoming war…It's greatly satisfying…to follow along as Lawton ties everything together with expert timing, breathtaking revelations and one quick, perfectly judged, genuinely frightening action scene that punctuates the ending.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Lawton has divided his atypical seventh Inspector Troy thriller (after Second Violin) in two. The first part, "Audacity," spans the years from 1934 to 1946, ranging from Vienna before the Anschluss to the site of the A-bomb test in the New Mexico desert. A straight historical narrative, it includes some powerful scenes, especially those at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, where musical prodigy Méret Voytek has been incarcerated, despite her not being Jewish. Robert Oppenheimer's role in developing America's nuclear weapons program proves relevant to the book's second half. In part two, "Austerity," set in 1948 London, Insp. Frederick Troy looks into the gunshot murder in the Underground of André Skolnik, a painter suspected of being a Soviet sleeper agent. Voytek, who survived Auschwitz, turns out to have a link to Skolnik. Those expecting a conventional crime novel should be prepared for two distinct stories with overlapping characters, only one of which involves a criminal investigation. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This is Lawton's seventh Inspector Troy novel (after Second Violin), but chronologically it is the third in the series. In 1934 Vienna, ten-year-old Meret Voytek becomes the cello protégé of Victor Rosen. Rosen flees to London ahead of the Nazis, but Meret remains, rising in musical circles until the Germans send her to Auschwitz in 1944 to play in the camp orchestra. The Soviets rescue her only to blackmail her and send her to London as a spy. Meret collaborates with Rosen and Hungarian physicist Karel Szabo, who's working with Robert Oppenheimer on the atomic bomb project. Troy enters the picture in 1946 when a murder investigation leads him to Rosen, Meret, and their musical performance code. Throughout this series, Lawton skillfully portrays the mood and stark reality of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, from concentration camp to freedom in London, from prewar glitter to postwar dreariness and rationing. VERDICT Legitimately compared to John Le Carré (although Alan Furst and Philip Kerr fans might enjoy him as well), Lawton vividly limns a world weariness contrasted with earth-shaking historical events, all the while unraveling a complex and compelling mystery that will not be quickly forgotten. Highly recommended.—Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Kirkus Reviews

Inspector Troy probes a murder with tangled roots in the recently ended Second World War.

The seventh Frederick Troy thriller (Second Violin, 2008, etc.) brings the London DCI in for the second half of the story. London, 1948. Viktor Rosen shares with mentor André Skolnik his intention to leave the Communist Party. André firmly advises that the Party doesn't work that way. Story flashes back to Vienna in 1934, where Viktor, a Jew in exile from Germany, is the mentor of cello prodigy Méret Voytek, just ten years old. His cloudy past is said to have involved an escape from the Nazis. The German war machine is headed east, a reality that Méret's parents try to shield from her. One day, Viktor simply vanishes. Méret joins the Vienna Youth Orchestra and, not long after, the Orchestra becomes an arm of the Hitler Youth. On her 20th birthday, she is taking the train home when she has the bad luck to see her friend Roberto shot by Nazis. In short order, both Méret and fellow musician Magda are arrested and ultimately end up at Auschwitz. Their musical artistry allows them to survive. When Méret pines for her beautiful cello, it's brought to her; she realizes with horror that her parents must be dead. Eventually, Méret and Magda are rescued (though later separated) by Russian soldiers. Méret lands in Paris, where she lives among artists for awhile, until the time comes to repay her rescuers. Most of the first half of the novel deals with Méret, but there's some tracking of Viktor as a spy in London, as well as Hungarian scientist Dr. Karel Szabo, transplanted to New Mexico to help develop the atomic bomb. Days after the prologue meeting between Viktor and André, the latter is found murdered in his art studio and Troy catches the case.

Another complex and compellingly readable historic thriller from Lawton, full of profound questions and memorable characters.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802145468
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/18/2011
  • Series: Inspector Troy Series , #7
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 316,451
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2013

    Another Inspector Troy novel that is as good as all the others.

    Another Inspector Troy novel that is as good as all the others. What a wonderful series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2012


    Slender with perfect curves golden wavey blonde hair full lips and bright green eyes. Im 15

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012


    Want to come to my house in annas village first result?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2012


    Sits sadly watching the sea

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2012

    Very intriguing story. Must

    Must read!

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  • Posted November 5, 2010

    An Adornment

    A LILY OF THE FIELD - John Lawton

    The prologue is set in a park in London, either in February or March, 1948. Two men meet to discuss the future of one. "It had not been the hardest winter..War. Winter. He had thought he might not live through either. He had..This winter would not kill him. The last would. And all the others that had preceded it." Viktor Rosen had come to tell Andre Skolnik, someone he had known for much of his life, that he had to stop. It is an audacious statement. Andre Skolnik responds, bringing Viktor back to their real world, "You cannot just stop. You cannot simply quit. What was it you think you joined all those years ago?..the Communist Party of the Soviet Union simply does not work that way."

    The first section of the book is termed "Audacity". It is February, 1934 and in Vienna those who have been paying attention are preparing for the change that is inevitable. Hitler has taken over Germany and it is only a matter of time before he claims Austria, especially Vienna, as part of his Thousand-Year Reich. Some German Jews have come to Vienna thinking there would be safety and for a few years, it seemed this would be so. Viktor Rosen is one of the most famous pianists in Europe. Imre Voytek arranges for Rosen to give his ten-year old daughter, Meret, music lessons. Meret is a prodigy, a cellist whose second instrument is the piano. Viktor is a pianist whose second instrument is the cello. The music lessons will impact their lives.

    Three years later, Viktor flees to England before the Germans march into Austria. Meret's life has centered around her lessons with Viktor but very soon after the Anschluss, she realizes just how prescient Viktor was. The youth orchestra becomes part of the Hitler Youth and Meret willingly goes along with the rules until, one day, a chance encounter with a boy from the orchestra pulls her into the Nazi machine. Meret is transported to Auschwitz where her talent saves her life. She becomes the cellist for the Ladies' Orchestra of Auschwitz. When the Russians advance on the camp at the end of the war, Meret is protected because even the Russians know who she is.

    The second section of the book is "Austerity". Meret is re-united with Viktor in England after she has spent time in Paris. Her talent and Viktor's combine to bring them the same adulation they had received in Vienna. But, although the victors in the war, England is a difficult place to live. Everything is still rationed and life is not easy but Meret and Viktor are established as part of that class of people those talents set them apart from, and above, their new countrymen.

    It is in England that Freddie and Rod Troy come into the book. Freddie is called to investigate the murder of a painter, Andre Skolnik. There are no clues, no witnesses so Freddie asks his brother, Rod, if anyone in the ex-pat community knows who he is. When Skolnik is identified, the Troy brothers find their lives becoming more complicated.

    The lives of Viktor and Meret run on a parallel path with that of Karel Szabo, an Hungarian physicist, who was interred on the Isle of Man with Rod Troy. Szabo is taken to Canada and then to the United States to work on the Manhattan Project. At the end of the war, he, too, comes to London with a head full of secrets that both sides in the new Cold War want desperately.

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  • Posted August 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    great historical mystery

    "Audacity". In 1934 as Germany turns increasingly violent against minorities, Vienna continues to be a sea of music as ten years old music prodigy Meret Voytek and her teacher Viktor Rosen can testify. However, over the next decade, the Nazi assault across the continent destroys the fine arts. Although she is not Jewish, cellist Meret Voytek ends up in Auschwitz where she survives until the concentration camp is liberated.

    "Austerity". In 1948 someone murders Russian artist Andre Skolnik in the London Underground. Police Inspector Frederick Troy leads the investigation and quickly finds circumstantial evidence that leads to the probability that the victim was a Soviet sleeper agent awaiting his assignment. Troy also uncovers a tie between the concentration camp survivor Voytek, and the alleged Soviet spy Skolnik, but the motive remains out of reach.

    The latest Inspector Troy historical mystery (see Second Violin) is a great tale that ironically leaves the series star as a second chair support role to the star cellist. The story line is actually two interrelated novellas with the tie being Voytek. Readers will enjoy this profound tale that takes the audience from the beginning of the Nazi aggression into the beginning of the Cold War with the police procedural only occurring in the second half.

    Harriet Klausner

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    Posted May 6, 2011

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    Posted October 14, 2010

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