THE ASSASSIN'S MARK by DAVID EBSWORTH.
September 1938. Spain's Civil War has been raging for two years, the outcome still in the balance. But rebel General Franco is so confident of winning that he has opened up battlefield tourism along the country's north coast.
Jack Telford, a left-wing reporter, finds himself with an eccentric group of tourists on one of the War Route's yellow Chrysler buses. Driven by his passion for peace, Telford attempts to uncover the hidden truths beneath the conflict.
But Jack must contend first with his own gullibility, the tragic death of a fellow passenger, capture by Republican guerrilleros, a final showdown at Spain's most holy shrine and the possibility that he has been badly betrayed. Betrayed and in serious danger.
....... Outer back cover. (Last paragraph may contain a slight spoiler, hi-light if you wish to view)
FIRST SENTENCE (Reflection: Saturday 1 October 1938): Sydney Elliott discarded yet another attempt - his fifth - at writing the obituary.
MEMORABLE MOMENT(Page 79): ..... "I say what was all that screaming about?"
"Good morning," said Peter. "No idea, I'm afraid, but there seems to be some sort of kerfuffle going on. D'you think somebody might have been murdered?"
"You've not read enough crime novels, Mister Kettering," said Frances. "The body is always discovered during dinner, never at breakfast.
"They might do things differently over here," said Kettering. "Anyway, we must find a table........"
MY THOUGHTS: With twists and turns aplenty, a strong sense of time and place and peppered throughout with vivid images of both the Basque region and its cuisine The Assassin's Mark is extremely well written and obviously thoroughly researched, the authors knowledge and passion for his subject shines through in this his second novel.
Set in 1930's Spain at the close of the civil war, alas, as it turns out, not a chapter in history that I found myself particularly fascinated by (I suspect that on this account I may well have fared better with the authors first book, THE JACOBITES APPRENTICE) whilst I did enjoy this as a Christie-eque thriller I admit that I did find the political element more than a bit daunting and on occasion a bit long-winded.
Impressed that it did work on so many levels, perhaps more than the plot itself it was the wonderful cast of eccentric characters that made this such an enjoyable read for me. Quirky if not always likable, the author did a wonderful job in capturing the psyche of the Brit abroad.
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