Liberation Square

Written by Gareth Rubin

Review written by Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is the author of 23 spy and crime thrillers. His last book was ‘Smart Moves’ – a standalone – and his next is ‘Rocco and the Price of Lies’ (April 2019), the 6th in the Insp Lucas Rocco series set in rural France of the 1960s. More information: https://www.adrianmagson.com/


Liberation Square
Michael Joseph
RRP: £12.99
Released: April 18 2019
HBK

It’s London, but not as we know it, so begins this intriguing debut novel.

The year is 1952, and Britain in a very different imagining. D-Day was a failure, resulting in the country occupied by the Nazis and only rescued by the Americans on one side and the Russians on the other. Unfortunately, that’s where they stayed, effectively splitting the nation between the (Russian-controlled) Republic of Great Britain in the south and the (Free) Democratic United Kingdom in the north, with the wall going through the north-west corner of London.

Picture the Berlin Wall. Freedom and colour to one side, a totalitarian rule and greyness to the other. In the brave new world of the British Republic, progress of any sort is stunted unless you have contacts, which means submitting to Communist Party influence. Protest is banned and the new masters - British servants working under their Russian controllers - hold sway, doing so with evident enjoyment of their extensive and ruthless powers, with men such as Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt venerated and holding the reins.

When Jane Cawson’s husband, Nick is arrested for the murder of his former wife, Lorelei, a star of propaganda films put out by the state machine, she does all she can to seek to clear his name. But the National Security apparatus does not have to answer to anyone and she finds her way blocked at every turn. Explanation is not forthcoming from the cold-hearted bureaucrats, only threats. But through the seemingly impenetrable and cold face of the new rulers, she finds a hint of what might be sympathy for her plight in a Detective Sergeant named Tibbot who, if not openly supporting her, at least offers some limited assistance. Even though he’s a policeman with a mind of his own, unlike many of his colleagues, he is still likely to become suspect if he makes a wrong move.

Jane Cawson is up against a faceless enemy, where doors either do not open or are slammed in her face, where reasoned explanation is absent and absolute suspicion is the prevailing mood. The safest bet in this new world is to trust no-one.

Although at heart a murder mystery, Rubin has portrayed a totally chilling, plausible and depressing scenario, made all the worse because of the proximity of a very different life to the north just a few streets away… yet unreachable by ordinary people in the south.

It’s a world we can only guess at, although there are plenty of examples not so very far away right now, where the freedom of expression and thought we take for granted is stamped on by the state.

Having seen the contrast between East and West Berlin, this book is a sharp and vividly-drawn, if a somewhat sepia-toned reminder of what is possible.

We just have to hope it never happens here.



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