Cross of Fire by Colin Forbes

This is an extremely long thriller at over 550 pages. It needs to be though as there are so many characters not all of whom are what they seem to be at first appearance.

The good people are: Paula Grey, Newman (who appears to be in a permanent bad mood), Nield, Butler, Tweed, and Marler. They have allies in France and Germany. These people are up against a would-be General de Gaulle named General Charles de Forge, who along with his supporters including Dubois, leader of a political party called Pour France, and Louis Janin, Minister of Defence is out to topple the government of France by fomenting an ever-increasing storm of hatred including riots in Bordeaux, Lyons, and Marseilles and attacks on Jews in the south of France. All these attackers are brandishing a burning Cross of Lorraine.

The story starts with two identical murders, one in Aldeburgh in Suffolk and the second in Bordeaux around 24 hours later. Both are committed by a mysterious assassin Kalmar. The story then moves at speed from London to Aldeburgh, Geneva, Basle to Paris, Bordeaux, Arcachon, The Landes. Gradually drawn into the story are characters you can never be sure about such as Jean Burgoyne, a mistress of General de Forge, Victor Rosewater a captain in Military Intelligence, Isabelle Thomas, girlfriend of a murdered British agent, Lieutenant Berthier who serves under General de Forge and his colleague Major Lamy. There’s also a second assassin called Manteau who keeps calling de Forge demanding money for the assassinations he claims he’s carried out, including the derailment of a TGV on a viaduct, a crash that kills both the President and Prime Minister of France.

There’s also a sinister English Lord, Dane Dawlish who owns a magnificent catamaran called Steel Vulture and has an unhealthy interest in the sunken village of Dunwich. This boat has been seen visiting Arcachon.

All these characters are skilfully woven into a coherent story by the author. The only item that jars slightly is that all the characters are extremely good at everything they do. They’re great shots, experts at self-defence, dress impeccably, can speak many languages and are attractive to the opposite sex. It’s like having a lot of James Bond’s (both male and female) all in the same novel. But that’s a minor quibble about an otherwise wonderful book.

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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