Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A Question of Betrayal by Anne Perry
Series: Elena Standish #2
Published by Ballantine on September 8, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
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On her first mission for MI6, the daring young photographer at the heart of bestselling author Anne Perry's thrilling 1930s mystery series travels to Mussolini's Italy to rescue the lover who betrayed her.
Britain's secret service, MI6, has lost contact with its informant in northern Italy, just as important intel about the future plans of Austria and Nazi Germany is coming to light. And young Elena Standish, to her surprise, is the only one who can recognize MI6's man--because he's her former lover. Aiden Strother betrayed her six years before, throwing shame on her entire family. Now, with so much to prove, Elena heads to Trieste to track down Aiden and find out what happened to his handler, who has mysteriously cut off contact with Britain.
As Elena hears word of a secret group working to put Austria in the hands of Germany, her older sister, Margot, is in Berlin to watch her childhood friend get married--to a member of the Gestapo. Margot and Elena's grandfather, the former head of MI6, is none too happy about the girls' travels at this tumultuous time, especially when a violent event at home reminds him that even Britain is growing dangerous. As his own investigation collides with his granddaughters', what's at stake in Europe becomes increasingly frightening--and personal.
After reading the first book in the series, Death in Focus, I was well aware just how gripping this one could get since Elena is now participating in British espionage work in the pre-dawn of WWII when the Nazi government is growing in power in Germany, Fascism is rife in Italy and the world is like a cauldron ready to boil over. With attention to historical detail, thoughtful character development, and a well-paced twisting suspense plot, Anne Perry’s latest left me wanting the next book as soon as I clicked onto the last page.
A Question of Betrayal does not make a good standalone and is more like a continuing story after the introductions and harrowing events of Death in Focus. Elena has survived a desperate adventure and learned a great deal about herself and some of the big family secrets. She is coming into her own and now she faces her first mission. And, what a doozy it is. She must locate an operative embedded deep in Nazi affairs in Trieste and get him out with what he knows- oh and he’s the man who betrayed her and his country which ended her foreign office career. Aiden caused her to doubt herself and many others to doubt her as well and now he’s her mission. She still has doubts whether he is the real deal or a clever double agent, but his handler is missing and Aiden, with what he knows, is in the wind.
Just that opening dialed up the tension quickly. But, Elena’s story is not the only plot thread. Like the first book, this one offers a mystery involving her grandparents who used to be up to their ears in missions during the first war and Elena’s MI6 handler. They are looking for a murderer and betrayer back home. And, then there is Elena’s fashionable, put together older sister Margot who goes to Berlin to support a dear friend who is marrying a bright, young Nazi officer and Margo hears disturbing things while she is there. The plot threads took the reader to different places, but didn’t distract because they were all different aspects of the same conflict.
I didn’t mind the three separate threads because I loved all the characters from older, but not past it, Lucas and Josephine working on their friend’s murder, to lonely but capable Peter Howard who was taking flack from his boss at MI6 while knowing he might ruin a friendship with Lucas for sending his granddaughter Elena into peril, to Margot who is learning a lot about her family and also herself as she finds her place figuring out her role in all that is going on, and then Elena who must face down her past and locate an operative whose cover has been blown in a city loaded with Nazi and Fascist intriguers. I love how each character’s thoughts and motives are meticulously drawn so the reader gets to know the main characters intimately.
The book starts out setting things up and getting the reader inside the characters, but by the end, there have been several acutely dangerous moments that can be subtle or overt action with a final breath-stealing climax.
As I said at the beginning, the series is strong and riveting for me. I can’t wait to see what spy adventure comes next for the Standish family as the storm clouds of war gather over the world. I think it will appeal to both historical mystery and historical thriller fans in this turbulent pre-WWII period.
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