Liberation Square

Written by Gareth Rubin

Review written by Ali Karim

Ali Karim was a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.

Liberation Square
RRP: £8.99
Released: August 22 2019

This debut novel’s alternate view of history is coloured by the author’s journalistic background. Like Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, Fatherland by Robert Harris, or SS-GB by Len Deighton, it re-ploughs the past, forming a narrative of what might have been, with the scar of World War Two at its origin.  Though it is a dark debut, perplexing as well as exciting - for it contains secrets, dark ones that perhaps should have remained hidden.

Set in a 1950s Great Britain, the author re-imagines the nation if the winds of war had blown from a different direction. D-Day didn’t turn out as is it did in today’s reality. In Rubin’s imagination it was the turning point that resulted in victory for Germany. The Russians and Americans invaded the seat of Empire, banishing the occupying Nazis; in so doing, the nation is split between the US and the Soviets, with an armed wall separating the two sides. That’s the macro-scale concept, the conceit or stage that this debut rests.

How this scenario plays on the micro-scale is what ultimately engages the reader, namely the characters, and their lives contrasted against this strangely imagined world. When Jane Cawson’s paranoia regarding her newly married husband’s fidelity comes into question, a series of balls are put into motion. Jane is a former teacher trying to manage her insecurities in her personal life against the backdrop of the regime that has to control, to manage the reality of this imagined world-order.

An actress named Lorelei is discovered murdered, and the police suspect Nick, a physician. The complication is that Lorelei was Nick’s first wife, an actress who worked on propaganda films; and it was this woman that Jane Cawson suspected her husband had continued to meet covertly and sexually, despite their marriage.

Surrounding the narrative, we have explorations of what might have happened to historical figures had the UK lost to the Germans in WW2, and the eponymous liberation, that gives this novel its title. Figures such as George Orwell, politicians, royalty are faced with an Iron Curtain not bisecting mainland Europe, instead separating the British Isles.  One detects the author giving the reader a subtle wink, and a nod to the so-called Brexit motif, as well as the proposition of a wall dividing north from southern America.

Like the wall that divides the nation, Jane has to overcome obstacles (placed in her path) to clear her husband’s name, separating lies from propaganda and from her own conflicting feelings. She is joined by the enigmatic Frank Tibbot and Hazel, her husband’s teenage daughter; and shadowed by people she has yet to understand.

Why, and who murdered the beautiful star of the propaganda films? This is the question that connects the macro-world Rubin has crafted so elegantly, to the micro-world that Jane Cawson and others have to traverse to seek the truth.

Liberation Square is an extraordinary debut, out now in paperback [it was reviewed earlier on hardback release HERE] - it provokes deep-thought as it entertains, welding a dystopian backdrop to a very human story. It’s a prescient read, but requires concentration for it ultimately rewards the patient, for it makes one ponder upon ‘the what if’ all of us confront, from time to time.

Gareth Rubin is name to watch for.

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