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Meentje63

The Way She Reads

My thoughts on everything I read; good, bad and indifferent.
House of the Hanged - Mark Mills 1919, Petrograd, Russia and young Tom Nash’s attempts to rescue Irina Bibikov, the woman he has come to love while working in Soviet Russia for the British Secret Service come to nothing when he’s told that she has been executed.
By 1935 Tom has resigned from the Secret Service and lives in Le Rayol on the French Riviera where he makes his living as a writer. While he enjoys his new life and is happy to be away from his former job, the past and especially Irina, are never far from his mind.
It is summer and gathered around Tom are the friends who have been visiting him here every summer for years. What should have been a happy time of enjoying the sun, swimming, sailing and parties turns sour though when a midnight intruder attempts to kill Tom in his own house.
Certain in the knowledge that the failed attempt will soon be followed by a new one, Tom has to find out who from his past wants him dead and why now, five years after he left the secret service.
After a second attempt on his life Tom comes to the conclusion that amongst the people he considers his close friends must be someone who is betraying him, passing on information about his living conditions and movements to those out to kill him.
If Tom is to stay alive he has to stay one step ahead of those who want him dead while at the same time flushing out the person(s) betraying him, ideally without putting those he loves into danger. And in the process he may well end up hurting the most important people in his life.

This was an interesting thriller. Tom makes a fascinating main character. When the reader meets Tom in 1935 his life is so quiet and peaceful that it is hard to imagine that this man was ever in the secret service. It is only because the book starts with the prequel in 1919’s Russia that the reader is aware of his background.
The book is more than a thriller though since as much of the story is about Tom and the people around him, what they think, feel, have done in the past and want to do next, as it is about the tension associated with the attacks on the main character.
Because who and what Tom’s friends and quests are, and how they relate to his past is only slowly revealed, the reader initially feels like they are lagging behind the main character when it comes to necessary information. As the story unfolds and more and more of Tom’s past and how the assembled guests fit into it is revealed the reader catches up quickly though.
And those quests are interesting since we meet people from England, America, Germany, France and Russia. Giving the timing of the story, with Europe getting close to another devastating war, those characters were perfect for what is a thriller as well as a spy story.
I have to admit that there were times when Tom’s memories of his earlier life interrupted the flow of the story a bit for me, especially since a few of those memories seemed to have no relevance whatsoever to the situation he finds himself in.
On the other hand, the whole story was written in such a smooth and almost intimate style that it was hard not to fall for Tom and some of the other characters, which of course created an interest in their feelings and past.
The ending did not come as a huge surprise to me but then again I’m not sure it was meant to. The ending was also a bit too open for me. While this does make it more realistic – how often does everything tie up smoothly in real life after all – I would have liked a bit more certainty about some of the character’s futures.

Overall though, this was a fun and fast read with interesting characters and wonderful setting.