A Lily of the Field (Inspector Troy Series)

A Lily of the Field (Inspector Troy Series)

4.4 11
by John Lawton
     
 

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Spanning the tumultuous years 1934 to 1948, John Lawton's A Lily of the Field is a brilliant historical thriller from a master of the form. The book follows two characters—Méret Voytek, a talented young cellist living in Vienna at the novel's start, and Dr. Karel Szabo, a Hungarian physicist interned in a camp on the Isle of Man. In his seventh

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Overview

Spanning the tumultuous years 1934 to 1948, John Lawton's A Lily of the Field is a brilliant historical thriller from a master of the form. The book follows two characters—Méret Voytek, a talented young cellist living in Vienna at the novel's start, and Dr. Karel Szabo, a Hungarian physicist interned in a camp on the Isle of Man. In his seventh Inspector Troy novel, Lawton moves seamlessly from Vienna and Auschwitz to the deserts of New Mexico and the rubble-strewn streets of postwar London, following the fascinating parallels of the physicist Szabo and musician Voytek as fate takes each far from home and across the untraditional battlefields of a destructive war to an unexpected intersection at the novel's close. The result, A Lily of the Field, is Lawton's best book yet, an historically accurate and remarkably written novel that explores the diaspora or two Europeans from the rise of Hitler to the post-atomic age.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An unbearably tense account of two musicians whose lives and careers are shattered in the aftermath of the Anschluss . . . Technically dazzling. Lawton keeps his historical perspective on the war while introducing new characters and adding layers of political subtext to the plot."—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times

"Lawton has always pushed the boundaries of the series crime novel, edging ever closer to broad-canvas historical fiction, but this time he has leaped the fence altogether. Like Dennis Lehane in The Given Day, Lawton introduces multiple characters and stories in a sweeping tale that comes together at a particular historical moment, but unlike Lehane, he does all that without abandoning his series hero or the continuity established in the previous volumes . . . A truly multitextured tale."—Booklist (Starred Review)

“Another complex and compellingly readable historic thriller from Lawton, full of profound questions and memorable characters.”—Kirkus Reviews

“If you love mystery and history, run out and pick up a book by Lawton, author of the superb Inspector Troy novels.”—Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times

“If the previous six installments in John Lawton's Inspector Troy series haven't made the point adequately, the seventh, 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.”—Gerald Bartell, The Washington Post

“John Lawton finds himself in the same boat as the late Patrick O’Brian—a sublimely elegant historical novelist as addictive as crack but overlooked by too many readers for too long. Like O’Brian, he inhabits his periods’ 20th-century tipping points witnessed by the rich and richly ambivalent sleuth Troy—with an ownership that leaves most history-bothering authors looking like day-trippers.”—Daily Telegraph

“Lawton writes with authority. His characters convince, and so does their world. Admirable, ambitious and haunting, this is the sort of thriller that defies categorisation. I look forward with enthusiasm to the next one.”—Spectator

“John Lawton’s books contain such a wealth of period detail, character description and background information that they are lifted out of any category. Every word is enriched by the author’s sophistication and irreverent intelligence, by his meticulous research and his wit.”—Literary Review

“Lawton’s Troy books are less detective stories or intelligence thrillers than novels which include both murders and spies—novels as much about how people and societies grow and change as about the complex messes that Troy finds himself tidying up for his adopted country.”—Independent

“Lawton handles the chronology with exemplary ease and intelligence.”—Guardian

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:
727,365
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.36(h) x 1.08(d)

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