Monday, 19 October 2009

The Information Officer

Information Officer, The

I saw this book when I was visiting Valletta last month. It was the number one best seller in one of the shops we visited and so I had a look at the synopsis and was intrigued. I didn't buy it because of luggage restrictions but made a note of it.

I eventually got it from our local library and once I started to read it I couldn't put it down.

It’s a murder mystery, a love story and a historic novel all rolled into one. The first and last chapters are set one evening in a London restaurant in 1951, but the main story evolves over 9 days in Malta in the summer of 1942, at the height of the terrible German and Italian bombing raids.

The story plays out against the background of Malta, the island fortress, during that great siege of 1942 providing extensive information about its geography and history. It is well written and researched with maps to help you identify the scenes of the action.

The author Mark Mills captures the feelings of a whole range of characters, British officers, other ranks, their wives, girlfriends as well as the occupied local people. They have to deal with a whole spectrum of issues, good and evil, life and death, truth and mendacity, love and hatred, joy and grief.

The central character, Max Chadwick is the Information Officer whose role is to keep up the morale of the islanders. When he finds out that a British Officer is murdering local women he has to cope with the conflict between his patriotic duty of keeping the information under wraps and his personal honour, finding the truth and the murder.

I found the characters interesting and believable with insight into the feelings of the occupied and their occupiers during this traumatic time.

The plot twists and turns as the author moves between the main story and glimpses into the motivations of the murderer keeping you guessing about the identity of the villain right to bitter end. If I have a criticism it’s that the murderer seemed the last person you would have expected, maybe that’s why the author picked them, but for me it made it a little less believable.

I really enjoyed this book the setting for me was wonderful, I loved the atmosphere, the characters with their touches of black humour and the fact it had quite a happy ending. It's not quite in the class of Captain Corelli's Mandolin but it is a very good read.

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