The Suicide Club by Andrew Williams (Hodder & Stoughton)
THE never-ending slaughter of the First World War is the backdrop for this novel but mainly seen through the eyes of those involved in the murky world of the spy.
The central character is Alexander Innes, a captain wounded at the Somme, and now working with the resistance in Belgium.
He is called back to London for a briefing and then dispatched to just behind the front line to Field-Marshall Haig’s army headquarters in France.
Innes is asked to spy on his own fellow officers because of fears that the intelligence being fed to Haig is false, prompting the Field-Marshall to launch attack after attack a seemingly weakening German force, all of the time adding to an already appalling death toll.
Innes tries to establish whether the intelligence is false and the identity of a secret agent called Faust.
But he is bogged down by the internal squabbling between senior officers at HQ and back in London where Prime Minister Lloyd George is unwilling or unable to make a decision as to what direction the war should take.
The tension is wound up a notch when Innes decides to go back undercover behind enemy lines in Belgium to discover the truth but finds himself in a situation where not only the Germans pose a danger to him but people on his own side.
The title of the novel refers to an espionage unit which was doomed to failure and the author’s immaculate research paints a very real and tragic picture of life – and how easy it was to lose it – in the First World War.