France under Nazi occupation and the Vichy government was a nation of compromised loyalties, whispered suspicions and corrupted morals – peculiarly fertile territory for Superintendent Jean Lannes, the downbeat hero of Allan Massie’s series of wartime romans policiers, of which this is the third. Massie combines deeply researched knowledge of the Vichy era – the subject of what he and many of his fans regard as his best early work, A Question of Loyalties (1989) – with the mature skill and worldly perspective of a septuagenarian with two dozen novels to his name. This trilogy (the other volumes are Death in Bordeaux and Dark Summer in Bordeaux) is his late masterpiece, and a more substantial achievement in every way than the casual browser might expect to find on the detective-thriller shelf.
The complex character of Lannes – middle-aged, melancholic, troubled by a war wound and a depressive wife – could fairly be described as Morse meets Maigret. He drinks hard, smokes constantly, trusts no one outside his own tight circle, worries for his children, befriends threatened Jews and, like all the