Wednesday, 17 April 2019


It's September 1944.The writing is on the wall for the Nazis, and the French port of Brest, has fallen to the allies. Kapitan Stefan Portisch is taking U-2553, one of the new, shoddy, prefabricated submarines created out of wartime shortages, through the Bay of Biscay on a special mission. He's got no torpedos, but instead five SS officers and a cargo of crates which he's carrying to Lisbon. Until they hit a storm, the ship gets damaged, and Portisch, the only survivor, is washed up in a small town in Spain.

Meanwhile in New Mexico, as the Manhattan Project proceeds feverishly, one of the scientists, Sol Fielder, has been found dead in his house, an apparent suicide. Hector Gomez, ex-FBI and now with Army Intelligence, begins his investigation, and discovers that the Army wants it put to bed quickly, so the project can move on. But of course it goes deeper than they want to know, and in the end very deep indeed.

How these two stories merge together is the dual spine of this intriguing novel, which was the first in Hurley's 'Wars Within' series. How he pulls off the melding of a murder mystery on one continent and a spy thriller with overtones of For Whom The Bell Tolls on the other is revealing. Hurley switches back and forth, doing a subtle but effective change of tone between those stories. The two protagonists are very different characters, and to some extent they are both outsiders in situations where they cannot fit comfortably. But Gomez has an immediate aim, while Portisch, looking simply to leave the pain of war, needs to find his. It's also interesting that their immediate link is romance, as both Portisch and Gomez encounter women whose help they need, but whom they have to risk trusting. To anyone familiar with Hurley's crime novels, featuring Joe Faraday or Jimmy Suttle, that intimate trust is often a metaphor for the bigger stories, one which must be resolved just as the key plot must be.

Finisterre means 'end of the earth'. As with Hurley's Estocada, third and latest of the Wars Within series (see my review here), the title carries its deeper meaning. That novel also was set-up with two converging plot lines. I actually like this one better, mostly for its combination of pace and depth, and for the way the stories are brought together in a way that makes this a superb espionage story as well as a fine thriller.

Just two queries: Gomez had been an FBI agent before joining Army Intelligence, and his FBI contacts are essential to the story. But my belief was that, although minorities had served in the Bureau of Investigation, after J. Edgar Hoover took over they were blacklisted, though it is true that during World War II, needing more agents and some who could speak Spanish to deal with the fear of Germans using Mexico, Hispanics were brought in. And oddly enough, the soda pop Mountain Dew appears in both New Mexico and Mexico proper. But Mountain Dew, like most pops at the time, was a regional thing around Tennessee (I know, I am sad for even knowing this) and didn't go national until the 1960s. Let me point out neither point really matters to the story (the soda pop not at all!) and few readers are as sad as I am not notice or care. And by the way, Portisch is a whole lot better looking than the UBoat captain on the cover.

Finisterre by Graham Hurley
Head Of Zeus, £18.99 ISBN 9781784977818

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