Nucleus

Written by Rory Clements

Review written by Philip Gooden

His historical novels include the Nick Revill series, set in Elizabethan London, a Victorian sequence, and a series of Chaucer mysteries, now in in e-books.


Nucleus
Zaffre
RRP: £12.99
Released: January 25, 2018
Hbk

Even after all this time, more books, films and TV to do with World War 2 seem to be launched every year than there were boats at Dunkirk. The trick for the author or producer is to find an angle that hasn’t been over-exposed or flogged to death. Recent offerings like Robert Harris’s Munich or books and films about Churchill have focused on the period leading up to the war or the darkest hours when Britain stood alone.

Rory Clements has moved away from the Elizabethan thrillers with which he made his name and followed up his successful Corpus (set in 1936) with Nucleus, set in 1939. Though it features some of the same characters as the earlier novel, including Tom Wilde - American-born but a history professor at Cambridge - and Lydia Morris, a publisher and Wilde’s one-off love interest, this engaging historical thriller can easily be read as a stand-alone.

Nucleus includes scenes from Berlin to Washington but its principal setting is Cambridge and specifically the Cavendish Laboratory, home to an assorted bunch of scientists trying to uncover and develop the secrets of the atom. The Nazis are aware of this - indeed, some of the Cavendish scientists are refugees from Germany - and a prelude to the book highlights their plans to sabotage the British programme. 

A multi-stranded plot involves the IRA (very active in England in the run-up to WW2), Nazi sympathisers in the US, the work of the Quakers in helping Jewish children escape to safety in England, the anti-Hitler resistance in Germany, the efforts of MI6 and Special Branch to catch elusive saboteurs, and a diverse cast of characters from college servants to a glamorous film star.

Occasionally the strands threaten to unravel but Rory Clements manages to keep everything together and ties almost all of it up in the closing  pages. Apart from Wilde and Lydia, the reader doesn’t quite know who to trust and there is an effective and genuine surprise at the end when the identity of an enemy agent is revealed. Well-researched and plausible, Nucleus offers an attractive combination of history and suspense. 


 



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