No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016/59: Europe in Winter -- Dave Hutchinson

"Europe is inherently unstable. It's been in flux for centuries; countries have risen and fallen, borders have ebbed and flowed, governments have come and gone. The Schengen era was just an historical blip, an affectation."[loc. 5535]

Third in the series -- trilogy? or will there be more? -- that began with Europe in Autumn and continued with Europe at Midnight. I liked Europe in Winter a great deal though suspect I need to reread the entire sequence before I can make sense of the ways in which the various plot threads weave and tangle together.

The Community has ended decades of isolationism and has laid a transcontinental railway line -- 'not so much a mode of transport, more a lifestyle choice' -- from Spain to Siberia. There are problems with bringing down borders, though. Some people would much rather keep the outsiders outside. And other people might make their living from facilitating illicit crossing of said borders. Thus, a terrorist attack on the Paris-Novosibirsk Express.

Meanwhile Rudi, erstwhile chef and Coureur du Bois, has managed to infiltrate Dresden-Neustadt, and has made a number of disconcerting discoveries -- about the Community, about the Patrons, about the Line and about himself. It's a complex and incomprehensible reality, so of course Mr Hutchinson throws further spanners (or, more likely, kitchen implements) into the works. Characters from the previous two novels (or people very like them) reappear: rival powers exchange hostages: old-skool spies do old-skool spy stuff straight out of Le Carre: a man with amnesia is travelling on forged papers, carrying a photograph from the 1919 Versailles peace conference: and Rudi begins to uncover the identity of the Coureur mastermind who's turned his life upside down and inside out.

With hilarious consequences.

I've struggled to write this review because there is simply so much plot: an unfolding fractal landscape of connections, identities, loyalties, topography. Then I happened across the perfect description of this novel: the bastard son of The Third Man and Inception (from The Eloquent Page). Yep, that sounds about right.

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