When Max learns of the brutal murder of a young island woman—along with evidence that the crime may have been committed by a British officer—he knows that the Maltese loyalty to the war effort could be instantly shattered. Max must investigate the murder—beyond the gaze of his superiors, friends, and even the woman he loves—as the clock ticks down toward all-out invasion.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
Mario was in a good mood.
This wasn’t saying much; he was often in a good mood. It was a legacy from his father—a simple, hardworking man who had drilled into his children the value of giving daily thanks for those things that most people took for granted.
Mario cast an approving eye around the restaurant. A prime site a stone’s throw from the Ritz, and after just four short years, a reputation to match the very best in town. Not bad for the son of a shoemaker from a small village in northern Italy. Not bad at all.
The place was empty, just one lone customer at the bar, but the restaurant would be heaving within the hour, even in these austere times. He checked over the reservations book, memorizing the names and the table allocations. He prided himself on not having to refer to it once the first diners had arrived. There was the usual smattering of household names with strong views about where they sat. Juggling their wishes was about as hard as his job got.
Table 7 was the first to show. The man’s face wasn’t well known to Mario—one of the birthdays-and-anniversaries-only crowd—but Mario remembered him as a generous tipper. He wore a good-quality suit, its looser cut suggesting one of the new tailors just off Savile Row. He informed Mario that his wife would be arriving separately and requested a dry martini to keep him company in the meantime.
The wife was obviously a romantic, because a special order had been placed earlier in the day for a bottle of wine to be brought to the table as a surprise. It was a white wine from a small French house, and it had arrived by taxi along with written instructions and a generous contribution toward corkage.
The bottle was already on ice, ready and waiting behind the bar. Mario tipped Gregory the wink before taking up a discreet position behind a bushy palmetto to observe the reaction.
The man smiled at the appearance of the ice bucket, but the moment Gregory revealed the bottle to him, he fell absolutely still, the blood draining from his face. He looked up at Gregory, speechless, and then his eyes darted wildly around the restaurant. They came to settle on the only other customer—the gentleman seated at the bar. The man’s back was turned to table 7, but he now swiveled round on his stool.
It was impossible to read the look that passed between the two men, but it crackled with a strange intensity. Poor Gregory was flummoxed. He offered to pour the wine, was ignored, then wisely chose to retire as the gentleman at the bar made his way over, clutching his cocktail. He was tall and balding and walked with a lazy grace.
Another thing Mario prided himself on was his absolute discretion, but this was a conversation he wanted to hear. He drifted toward table 10, out of sight behind the high banquette but just within earshot. He arrived as the balding man was taking a seat.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
There was a soft but unmistakable American lilt to his accent.
“Where’s my wife?” said the other man.
“Don’t worry. She’s just fine.”
“Where is she?”
“At home. She thought we should talk.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“It’s true. Call her if you’d like. Cigarette?”
“I have my own.”
“Try one of these—they’re Russian.”
Mario heard the cigarettes being lit and then the balding man say, “What’s your secret?”
“You’ve barely aged in ten years.”
“It feels longer.”
“I miss Malta.”
“I doubt that.”
“You don’t seem very pleased to see me.”
“What did you expect? The last time I saw you, you tried to kill me.”
Mario almost toppled a wineglass on table 10.
“Is that what they told you?” asked the balding man.
“They didn’t have to. I was there, remember?”
“You’re wrong. I could have killed you. Maybe I should have. I chose not to.”
The other man gave a short snort of derision.
Mario was well out of his depth now and regretting his decision to eavesdrop. Help came in the form of a large party of diners who blew in through the door on a gale of laughter. Mario couldn’t see them from where he was lurking.
“Isn’t that the actor everyone’s talking about?” said the balding man.
“I think so.”
“I’m not sure a fedora and a cloak suit a fellow that short. He looks like a kid playing at Zorro.”
Definitely table 2, thought Mario, swooping from his hiding place to greet the new arrivals.
She knew the cemetery well—not every gravestone, tomb, and mausoleum, but most. She certainly knew it well enough to tread its twisting pathways with confidence, even on a moonless night such as this. Before the blackout restrictions, she would have been assisted on her way by a constellation of flickering candles, but with the deep darkness as her only companion, she still walked with confidence and purpose.
The mellow scent of pine sap came at her clear on the warm night breeze. Tonight, however, it did battle with the rank odor of decay, of putrefaction. Two wayward German bombs—or possibly Italian, now that the cicci macaroni were back—had smacked into the hillside the previous night during a raid, reducing family tombs to rubble and wrenching coffins from the thin soil. Corpses in various states of decomposition had been scattered in all directions, their rude awakening like some dress rehearsal for Judgment Day.
It was Father Debono who had drawn this parallel for their benefit at early-morning Mass, and while it was the sort of observation for which he was known, and the sort that endeared him to the younger members of his flock, his willingness to flirt with irreverence was a source of ongoing distrust among the more elderly. Many had furrowed their brows; some had even tut-tutted from their pews.
She knew where her sympathies lay, though. She knew that it was Father Debono, not old Grech and his wizened holier-than-thou sister, who had spent that day in the thick of it, toiling through the pitiless heat and the inhuman stench to ensure that all the corpses were recovered and reburied with all the proper rites.
Judging from the smell, Father Debono and his small band of helpers had not been able to complete their grim task before nightfall, and she picked up her pace a little at the thought of the rats feasting on flesh nearby. She had always hated rats, even before the war, before the stories had begun to circulate about what went on beneath the rubble of the bombed-out buildings.
She saw a light up ahead: a flickering flame?.?.?.?the vague contours of a face?.?.?.?a man lighting a cigarette. Then darkness once more.
She slowed, more from respect than fear. With the cemetery doing a roaring trade, it was not the first time she had come across some grieving soul while making her way home from work in the early hours of the morning. She had once heard deep male sobs in the darkness and had removed her shoes so that the unfortunate person would not be disturbed by her footfalls on the paved pathway.
“Good evening,” she said quietly in Maltese as she drew level.
He was seated on the low stone wall to the right of the path, and he responded in English.
“I think you’ll find it’s morning, Carmela.”
She didn’t know the voice, or if she did, she couldn’t place it.
“Did you make good money tonight?” he asked.
He not only knew her, but he knew what she did, and she was happy he couldn’t see the color rising in her cheeks.
“Yes, not bad.”
“Oh, but you are, and you know it.”
It wasn’t so much the words as the slow, easy drawl with which they were delivered that set her heart racing.
His small laugh did something to soothe her building apprehension.
“I was only joking.”
He drew long and hard on his cigarette. In the dim glow of burning tobacco, she could just discern that he was wearing khaki battle dress: shirt and shorts. This didn’t help much. All the services had adopted it recently, and she was unable to make out the shoulder flashes.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Ah, now I’m insulted.”
It could have been Harry, or Bernard, or even young Bill, the one they all called “little Willy” (before invariably erupting in laughter). But she didn’t feel like laughing because it could have been almost any one of the officers who passed through the Blue Parrot on a typical night, and this man remained silent, enjoying her confusion, her discomfort, which was cruel and uncalled for.
“I must go.”
He was off the wall and seizing her arm before she had taken two paces.
“What’s the hurry?”
She tried to pull free, but his grip was firm, viselike, painful. She let out a small cry and attempted to twist away. The maneuver failed miserably, and she found herself trapped against him, her back pressed into his chest.
He clamped his free hand over her mouth. “Ssshhhh,” he soothed.
He spat the cigarette away and put his mouth to her ear.
“You want to know who I am? I’m the last living soul you’ll ever set eyes on.”
She didn’t need to know all of the words; she understood their meaning. And now she began to struggle in earnest, her thoughts turning to her home, her parents, her brothers, her dog, all so close, just a short way up the hill.
He repaid her efforts by twisting her left arm up behind her until something gave in her shoulder. The pain ripped through her, carrying her to the brink of unconsciousness, her knees starting to give. In desperation she tried to bite the hand gagging her cries, but he cupped his fingers away from her teeth. His other hand released her now-useless arm and jammed itself between her legs, into the fork of her thighs, pulling her back against him.
His breathing was strangely calm and measured, and there was something in the sound of it that suggested he was smiling.
Tea or coffee?”
“Which do you recommend?”
“Well, the first tastes like dishwater, the second like slurry runoff.”
“I’ll try the slurry runoff.”
Max summoned the attention of the waiter hovering nearby. He was new— squat and toadlike—some member of the kitchen staff drafted in to replace Ugo, whose wife had been wounded in a strafing attack over the weekend while out strolling with friends near Rabat. Gratifyingly, the pilot of the Messerschmitt 109 had paid for this outrage with his life, a Spitfire from Ta’ Qali dropping onto his tail moments later and bringing him down in the drink off the Dingli Cliffs.
“How’s Ugo’s wife?” Max inquired of the waiter.
In case there was any doubt, the waiter tilted his head to one side and let a fat tongue roll out of his mouth. The eyes remained open, staring.
“Two coffees, please.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
Max’s eyes tracked the waiter as he waddled off, but his thoughts were elsewhere, with Ugo, and he wondered how long it would be before he smiled his crooked smile again.
He forced his attention back to the young man sitting across from him. Edward Pemberton was taking in his surroundings—the tall windows, the elaborately painted walls, and the high beamed ceiling—apparently immune to the mention of death.
“What a beautiful place.”
“It’s the old Auberge de Provence.”
Once home to the Knights of Saint John, the grand baroque edifice now housed the Union Club, a welcome haven from the hard realities of war for the officer classes. The building seemed to bear a charmed life, standing remarkably unscathed among the ruins and rubble of Kingsway, Valetta’s principal street. With its reassuring whiff of a Saint James’s gentleman’s club, there was no better place to break the news to young Pemberton. It might help soften the blow.
So he had been listening, after all.
“The head waiter.”
“How did his wife die?”
Max hesitated, then told him the story. No point in pretending that things hadn’t turned nasty of late. In fact, it might fire his sense of outrage, winning him over to the cause, although, when it came to it, Pemberton would have very little say in the matter. He wouldn’t be leaving Malta anytime soon; he just didn’t know that yet. Another bird of passage ensnared by the beleaguered garrison. Poor bastard.
Max spelled it out as gently as he could. The lieutenant governor’s office had already been in touch with the brass in Gibraltar, who appreciated that Malta’s back was up against the wall. If Pemberton’s services were required on the island, then so be it. Needs must, and all that. Force majeure. First dibs to the downtrodden. You get the picture.
“I understand,” said Pemberton.
“Absolutely, sir. No objections.”
Max wanted to ask him if he had any notion of what lay in store for him: the breathless heat and the choking dust; the mosquitoes, sand flies, and man-eating fleas; the sleepless nights and the starvation rations. Oh, and the Luftwaffe, who, together with the Regia Aeronautica, were intent on wiping the island off the map, on bombing it into oblivion.
“I never wanted to go to Gib,” Pemberton went on. “It never appealed?.?.?.?as a place, I mean.”
War as tourism, thought Max. Well, that’s one way of coming at it, and probably no better or worse than any other.
“Malta has a lot to offer,” said Max. “When the history of the war comes to be written, this little lump of rock in the middle of the Med will figure large.”
“If you’re appealing to my vanity, it might just work.”
Max gave a short loud laugh, which drew glances from a couple of artillery types at a nearby table. Pemberton was smiling coyly, faultless teeth flashing in his wide, strong mouth. Matinee idol looks and a sense of humor. Perfect fodder for Rosamund, Max mused. She’ll never forgive me if I don’t offer her the right of first refusal.
Pemberton explained (with a degree of candor he would soon learn to curb) that he was sick of being shunted from pillar to post under the protective tutelage of his uncle, a bigwig in the War Office.
“I should warn you, he won’t be best pleased.”
“Then you can tell him that Malta has already saved your life,” replied Max. “The seaplane you should have flown out on last night is missing.”
“Brought down near Pantelleria, we think. They have the radio direction finding and a squadron of 109s stationed there. We won’t know for sure until we hear what Rome Radio has to say on the matter. They talk a lot of rubbish, of course, but we’ve grown pretty adept at panning for the small truths that matter to us.”
Pemberton stared forlornly at his cup of coffee before looking up. “I had lunch with the pilot yesterday. Douglas. I knew him from Alex. Douglas Pitt.”
Max had never heard of Pitt, but then the seaplane boys at Kalafrana Bay rarely mingled, not even with the other pilots. They were always on the go, running the two-thousand-mile gauntlet between Alexandria and Gibraltar at opposite ends of the Mediterranean, breaking the journey in Malta—the lone Allied outpost in a hostile Nazi-controlled sea.
“You’ll get used to it.”
Pemberton’s eyes locked on to Max, demanding an explanation.
“Look, I’d be lying if I said casualty rates weren’t running pretty high right now. People, they?.?.?.?well, they’re here one day, gone the next.”
When Pemberton spoke, there was a mild note of irritation in his tone. “That doesn’t mean you have to stop remembering them.”
Well, actually it does, thought Max. Because if you spent your time thinking about the ones who’d copped it, you wouldn’t be able to function. In his first year he had written four heartfelt letters to the families of the three men and one woman he had known well enough to care for. He hadn’t written any such letters in the past year.
“No, you’re right, of course,” he said.
Pemberton would find his own path through it, assuming he survived long enough to navigate one.
“So, tell me, what do you know about Malta?”
From the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Most people don't know what occurred in Malta in 1942 during World War II. We hear of the bombing of Dresden or the London siege, but Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean was the most bombed country in the war. A strategic shipping and military supply port, it was critical to the Germans as they planned Rommel's advance, and critical to the Allies to stop the ability of the Axis powers to bring their armies together rather than fighting on different fronts. The people of Malta endured months of daily bombings, waves upon waves of bombs raining down and killing civilians as well as military forces. Max Chadwick has been posted to Malta. He is the British Information Officer and his job is to report the news in such a way that the troops and the native people of Malta are encouraged rather than desolate. In his position, he gets the inside scoop long before anyone else. Or at least that is what he has always thought. Now there seem to be currents and counter-currents of information swirling around, plots and counterplots, until Max realizes that he has been naive and used as one more tool in the government's manipulation of reality. Other factors complicate life for Max. He has been carrying on an adulterous affair with the wife of one of the submarine commanders. But, he has also met a Maltan woman, a newspaper editor, who he is rapidly coming to realize that he loves. Then he becomes aware of the murders. Five women, most bar hostesses, have been killed recently. Who is this serial killer who uses the war to mask his crimes? There are indications that he might be a military man. The military authorities want this information squelched, and Max is in their sights as he tries to discover what is going on. This is easily the best book I've read this year. The writing is lush and starts slow and languorous. As the military action heats up, so does the pace of the book, and it becomes a page-turner that leaves the reader breathless. The romance is underplayed and never takes over the story. The plot is intricate and skillfully revealed. This book is highly recommended for all readers.
This book is not for someone who is addicted to the cosy genre(and I must admit I fall into that category most of the time). I wanted to read this book because I am old enough to remember World War II, and because years ago I had a friend from Malta. I found the detailed maps at the front very helpful in following the story's plot,enabling me to visualize the coming and goings as the plot developed. The characters seemed to reflect the urgency of that time, and the need to not only not reveal something that might be useful to the enemy, but also the need for close relationships(sexual as well as those of the we're in this together, Buddy variety). The plot revolved around the murders of local girls working in dance halls, and the motive of the killer. Of course, this is happening in a time before forensics had evolved into more than fingerprints and blood stains, and is coupled with a shortage of equipment and time to solve civilian crimes. I found it a challenge at times, because it is not an "easy read", and I had to put my mind to work to keep up to the plot's twists and turns, especially as there did not seem to be any character who would fit the "obvious villain" category. There was not one German or Nazi sympathizer to be found until the final chapter. Written by a Brit too young to remember the war, he obviously relied heavily on his research for facts, figures and geography. That he was able to concoct this story based on the arrival of British Spitfires to the Island in May of 1942 is to his credit. I would recommend this book to WWII buffs looking for a little bit of history that seems to be largely ignored here in the States, who also enjoy "whodunnits". It is not for those who want a quick read. It definitely is a rainy day book for those looking for something to exercise their mind, and have the time to indulge.
So much promise, so little delivery. The only thing I really liked about The Information Officer was the setting. Mills does a fantastic job of painting a period and place in history. Malta, World War II, and the war-time struggles on this small island nation come alive in this book. The time and place are masterfully created in vivid detail. In fact, it was so interesting that I did a little extra independent reading on the history of Malta. It's really interesting stuff! The characters, however, are not done nearly so well. In fact, there are so many of them scattered throughout this novel that even when I finished, I still wasn't sure who they all were. or why we even met half of them. Most had no real bearing on the story. And the woman Max loves? Until she turned up as his wife in the end, I was unaware that he loved her. So much for a well-done romance. From a plot perspective, the problem with this book was that it tried to be too many things at once: historical fiction, exploration into the mind of a serial killer, murder mystery, romance, tale of espionage. As a result, the story lines all got spread too thin and were rendered unsatisfying on all fronts. I just couldn't get behind this book at all. The ads tout The Information Officer as a must-read for fans of "Casablanca." That's a great hook, but every Bogart fan who gets snagged by it is destined for disappointment. The Bottom Line: A poorly constructed novel that is interesting only for its period detail. This review originally appeared on my blog, The Lit Witch: A Book Blog.
This book's a keeper. Here's what I loved: * The dialogue. Well-written, witty, light--it's easy to be with the characters as they converse, when they are at parties, and in tense conversations, too.* The setting. I had to stop reading at one point to google images of Malta and learn more about the setting. Malta (to me) is slightly exotic but not so exotic that I couldn't easily get there in my mind.The only downfall is that (spoiler alert!) is that it was pretty obvious very early on that one of Max's close friends would be the villain. Still didn't ruin the read--it's a one- or two-night book--but I was a little disappointed because I'm one of those readers who is usually the last to know. Thanks, Random House, for giving me this galley as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewers program!
I wouldn't have read this book if I hadn't won an advanced copy, and I kind wish I hadn't won it. This book was very, very muddled. I wish it just focused on one damn thing, but nnoooooo, it had to try to do it all, and it failed. The whole mystery/thriller part of it absolutely drowned in all the war details and boring characters. A good 3/4 of this book was just talking about bombings and airplanes and guns and other things that were just not interesting. And there was waaaayyy too many characters that still remain undistinguished in my mind. And I was nearly half-way into the book before I realized that every other chapter switched the subject of the narrative. Once I figured this out, the novel made much more sense, but I just wish it had been made clearer. Very little of this book was spent on the actual murder investigation, and it was pretty slow-moving until the last couple of chapters. One thing this novel had going for it was that I did not guess the killer, which is always a plus. I was not pleased with this book, and will not be reading it again.
While this book wasn't bad, it could have been a lot better. There was too little character development early on which made it difficult to keep the characters straight or to even develop any feelings for them, one way or another, which reduced the impact of the moment when the murderer was revealed. The island of Malta and the bombings during WWII were a major component of the book but this also could have used a little more background so the reader can develop some attachment. Not knowing anything about this particular part of WWII, I felt I was missing some critical knowledge that could have enhanced the reading experience.
Interesting as historical WW II fiction, and as a killer's point of view detective novel.
Enjoyable for the Malta setting and a taste of the island's history. Otherwise, well... it's hard to fish in the same waters as Alan Furst. Agree with other reviewers who felt the conclusion was too fast, too pat. In particular, the opening scene of the framing story sets a mood not borne out in its closing.
I was torn between giving the Information Officer 3 1/2 or 4 stars. While it was well written, the story was not riveting.Max is the information officer on Malta. His friend Freddie is an army doctor who has just processed the body of a dead 17 year old girl. He thinks she's been murdered (although a piece of shrapnel in his neck is an attempt to cover up the crime). She also had a piece of officer uniform in her hand, incriminating a submarine officer. Freddie had reported it to the MPs with no results.Max decides to investigate. He is thwarted in his attempts, of course.The Information Officer is a narrative of life in Malta during the war. I learned it is the most bombed island in world history and was considered strategic during the war. While the book the well written, the mystery didn't seem to unfold as opposed to falling out at the end. The first chapter sets the stage for a riveting story which didn't materialize. A friend of mine started skimming towards the end of the book. I didn't do that, but it wasn't a book that I couldn't put down. Amagansett is still Mills' best book. The Information Officer surpasses The Savage Garden which I didn't like at all.
It's a part serial killer/murder mystery/love story/WWII novel set in Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean just south of Italy. Before this novel, I had never heard of the Siege of Malta. During WWII, it was pretty much the most heavily bombed place ever. Wow. The Allies were stationed on the island and were helping to fend off the Germans and Italians from invading.Enter the Information Officer, Max Chadwick, a British officer in charge of, well, information. Obviously with all the bombing going on, morale can be quite low. So Max is in charge of keeping certain information hidden that might hurt the campaign, while promoting the heroism and valor of the Allies and Maltese.On top of all that, Max is called in to check out the body of a young girl who was found dead, murdered. In her hands is the scrap of a officer's uniform. The coroner believes she was not the first victim. Obviously Max is in a bind: he can't let the Maltese people know that one of the Allied officers may be killing their girls. Creepily, some of the chapters are narrated by this unknown killer providing the reader with a disturbing glimpse into the killer's mind.On top of all that, Max is in another predicament. He's been seeing one lady while he's fallen in love with someone else.So this seems like a lot of stuff going on, but Mark Mills handles it wonderfully. The picture he paints is so vivid. Imagine constantly being bombarded day and night. Often, people just go up on roofs to watch the current wave of bombs. People have bomb shelters but they also hide in various tunnels throughout the island. They don't drive because the dust kicked up becomes a prime target. But life goes on.I think the setting is what I loved about this book. I'm big into the history part of historical-fiction. The murder mystery is an added bonus. The only part of the book I didn't quite like is the love story part. I don't want to have any spoilers, but it was one of those things where you felt for Max but he kind of shot himself in the foot on this one (figuratively, not literally).
In a word The Information Officer is complicated. It is dark, dense, and very complex. Simultaneously a historical war story, an espionage novel, a mystery book and a romantic suspense; it is for the reader that appreciates the descriptive build up of time and place.The mystery is not the primary player in this book. It is the war. The drama is in the ceaseless air raids and threat of imminent invasion balanced against the everyday life of the locals and British soldiers, the murder is incidental. Perfect for lovers of historical fiction, especially World War II fanatics, but a bit off course for readers seeking a taught thriller.
The Information Officer is a very good historical mystery novel with an interesting World War II setting. The story takes place on Malta, an island south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta was a British possession until 1964 and played a strategic role in the Allies' campaign against the Italian and German air and naval forces. Mills gives a realistic, detailed description of life on Malta during the war, including the frequent air raids initiated by the enemy originating in Italy that decimated the social and physical structures on Malta. With war as a background, the mostly British main characters live their lives as normally as they can in dangerous conditions. Relationships develop with strong emotional ties even though the lovers and friends know that their social and physical world may end quickly via bombs or reassignments. A murder mystery develops with a sociopath hunting and murdering local women. Max, the British information officer, takes an interest in the killings and investigates. He is careful not to disturb the justifiably strained British/Maltan public relations by keeping his informal investigation private. Because of his personal relationships on Malta, Max's detective work causes unintended consequences. There are further complicating factors because a German agent cooperating with the enemy is embedded in the British and American cadre. The combination of history, social intrigue, and spying makes for an entertaining mystery. The structure of the novel is good causing the reader to look forward to additional information on all fronts. The pace is moderate with dramatic increases at key points in the story, much as you would expect in the constant uncertainty of wartime Malta. The character development involves short background sketches added at different points of the story allowing readers to gain information unexpectedly. This adds to the mystery making it difficult to predict the outcome, a key element of a good mystery. I was a bit disappointed in the development of the personality of the sociopath. It was adequate and well-written in a believable voice. But, it lacked the detailed insight that I like in mystery novels. Also, the novel seemed emotionally flat. This fits the almost hopeless wartime mission on Malta, but it reads like a very good dissertation on a relatively little known part of WWII history. It left me a bit cold as a story of the personal interaction of the characters. However, I learned a lot and enjoyed the mystery and do recommend the book to mystery lovers.
This was a very enjoyable both as an historical novel and good detective story. A little slow in the beginning but got better as it went on.
This was a huge disappointment. The author squandered a rich setting and potentially riveting story. I've been "reading" this for 24 days - slogging through it is more apt - and have read at least 3 other books during that time. Sometimes I look at it and just can't pick it up again, so I read something else. Since this was an ER copy I was determined to finish it but folks I just can't do it. I'm still only 3/4 of the way through it and I'm throwing in the towel. (Something I rarely do.)
Psychological murder mystery involving a serial killer? Spy story? Love story? Historical novel? This novel tries to do it all, and does none of it well.The murder of a local girl on Malta during World War II is made to look like a bombing death. For some reason, a military doctor does the post-mortem, as he has on two other deaths of local girls which he thinks were murders made to look like bombing deaths. He told the military authorities about it, but they did not investigate. For some reason, he tells his friend Major Max Chadwick, British Information Officer. Our hero decides to look into it himself.In chapters devoted only to him, we learn about our killer. Abused by his father during childhood, he caused his father¿s death in an auto accident and has no emotional life. He teaches himself to show appropriate emotion at the appropriate time, and no one suspects that he is really a psychopath. The killer, Max, and all of the other characters in this story are caricatures. Each of the men is a stereotypical British something and the women are little more than plot devices. Through most of the story, only Max and the killer undergo any character development, and it is not enough to make the reader care about Max or the others, or to develop any real antipathy to the killer. The dialogue is wooden. The ¿witty repartee¿ and bantering of most of the conversations is trite. There is a surfeit of gratuitous jargon. Every few pages, my reaction was: ¿lame, lame, lame¿! The only reason I finished this book was because it was an Early Reviewer book.
It¿s the summer of 1942 and Malta is quickly becoming the most bombed place on earth. The strategic location of the island, between Europe and Africa, has increased its value to both the Germans who are bombing it, and the Allies who are stationed there. The residents fear a German invasion, but the lack of protection against the constant air raids has weakened their loyalty to the Allies. British officer Max Chadwick has been given the position of Information Officer. His assignment is to manipulate the news coming in to Malta to buoy the spirits of the troops and the island residents. What the Maltese do not know is that a psychopath walks among them, killing young women and leaving their bodies out in the open to appear as if they were killed during a bomb strike. When another young woman is found dead Freddie, a friend of Max¿s and a doctor at the local hospital, discovers the true cause of death. He confides in Max that this is the third murdered woman who has come into the morgue recently. This time, though, a shoulder patch from a British officer¿s uniform is found in the dead woman¿s clenched hand. Max knows that if this news is released to the public, Maltese loyalty to the Allies may finally be shattered. ¿The Information Officer¿ is both a love story and a murder mystery, with occasional glimpses into the mind of the killer. The crucial role that Malta played during the war may not be common knowledge, and will certainly appeal to readers of historical fiction. Mills is masterful at expressing a sense of place, with his descriptions fueling the reader¿s imagination.
I really enjoyed this Early Reviewer's copy of "Information Officer" by Mark Mills! At times I was a little bogged down by details (although necessary to the end, I'm sure) but then again I am not very up on history and geography which put me at a disadvantage with this book. However, after all was said and done it had some great twists and I thoroughly enjoyed the book! Read it in less than two days (and that includes a working day of not reading) so a very quick read!
A tense and atmospheric murder mystery which takes place in Malta over eight days in 1942. A British Information Officer (military propagandist), Max Chadwick, becomes aware of a serial killer who may be a British officer. Malta at the time was part of the British Empire and, because of its strategic position just south of Sicily and the presence of Allied submarines and airfields, it was under constant bombardment by the Germans and Italians. With the Maltese population becoming restless over the lack of resources to protect them, the murders threaten to further undermine cooperation. Max decides to investigate, even when it is made clear military authorities would rather the problem was concealed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The characters were diverse and believable. The story was terrific...Fast paced and completely viable. Th e best part, though, was the historical context. It involved an arena of WWII I'm not all that familiar with, so I really liked reading about Malta. I'm always impressed when an author can give us exposition without it seeming like exposition!
Reading this book has reinforced once again the value of Amazon reader reviews to which I unfortunately paid no attention this time. I knew this was 2.5 stars and read it anyway, swayed by a comparison with Casablanca. This is about 1942 Malta under attack by German bombers and fighters in Italy. defended by Brits. Three prostitutes have been killed, a mole is on the loose. Everything is murky, including the characters.
A historical thriller/mystery set in a beseiged Malta during May, 1942. Lots of atmosphere, but I'm not always sure the author played fair with all the clues. I guess that makes this more of a thriller than a mystery.Interesting characters, many of the balmy English type.
I actually didn't get more than a couple of chapters into this book - really unusual for me, I hate leaving a book unfinished, even if I'm really not enjoying it. I even ploughed my way through the Da Vinci Code, and that was painful. Thing is, I don't think this book is actually that bad. I'm certain I've read worse. I just couldn't get into it. I suppose what it came down to for me was that none of the characters felt like real people, so I found it impossible to care about what happened to any of them. They all felt two-dimensional, especially the killer. The dialog was flat, and the female characters in particular just read like lazy, pulp-fiction cliches. It's a shame because I think the idea had potential, and I've heard good things about Mark Mills generally, but on the evidence of this book I don't think I'd bother with his writing again. Life's too short for bad books.
It's the middle of World War II, and the tiny island of Malta is being pounded to pieces by daily (and nightly) bombing raids by both the Germans and the Italians. So who will notice a few dead bar girls amidst the thousands of other casualties. Then one is found with a slashed throat, clutching the tabs that submarine officers wear on their dress uniform in her hand, and information officer Max Chadwick undertakes to stop the murderer -- and do his job ensuring that word doesn't leak out to the local population that one of the British military officers may be a serial killer.This is a fascinating and gripping yarn by a writer who manages to effortlessly blend details of the murderer's inner thoughts with Max's quest to bring him to justice and the attacks on Malta. (The climactic scene takes place against the backdrop of a massive raid and the arrival of critical deliveries of war materiel.) It's a standard serial killer thriller, but also a spy novel; a buddy novel, but also a romance. In short, this is an excellent novel in which the suspense just builds and builds, as Max pursues his stealthy private inquiries. A 'thumping good read'.
Part war story, part murder mystery, this book is set on the Mediterrean island of Malta during World War 2 when it was still controlled by the British. Max is the British Information Officer - the man whose responsibility it is to report the official version of the war news to the island's residents. When his friend Freddie, an over-worked medical officer, confides that several recently killed local women were not victims of air raids as presumed, but were murdered he is distressed, but believes that it is no real concern of his. However, when Freddie presents evidence that indicates that the killer may have been a British officer, suddenly Max has a problem. In the midst of the fiercest bombing anywhere during the war, he is expected to do whatever is necessary to keep up the spirits of the Maltese people. If they were to learn that they had as much to fear from the British as from the Germans and Italians, the results would be disasterous. Not knowing who he can trust, Max must determine the identity of the killer and stop him before he strikes again.The murder mystery could have been better developed, it is not strong enough to stand on its own. I felt the book was more of a story about the determination shown by the Maltese people when they were being subjected to daily, sometimes twice daily, bombing raids by the Italians. Despite terrible destruction, as soon as the all clear signal sounded, people emerged from their shelters and resumed their lives. Lives which were hampered by shortages of food, fuel, and ammunition. They took pride in the wiliness of the submarines based there and their successes, and were in a constant state of expectation of more airplanes to replace those destroyed by the constant bombings. This part of the story was very interesting, and made the book worth the effort.
Max Chadwick, propaganda officer and man-about-war, is delivered information that makes his job harder--an English officer may be killing local women. And that's about all the motivation and plot I could discern through the first sixty percent or so of the book. It took that long to find characters readily distinguishable from one another. From there Mills' talent shows in the plotting and pacing--and truthfully it shows earlier, but not consistently enough. For a writer who sometimes undermines readers' imagination with overly detailed descriptions, it was odd to never quite be able to get a handle on Malta--the place is a central character. Mills' The Savage Garden remains one of my favorites, but the Information Officer kept its distance from me until the very end.