I absolutely loved Mark Mills’ The Savage Garden – a book that I read in the course of a single day shortly after it was published, and so I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review his latest novel, Where Dead Men Meet, which was published in November by Headline Review.
Where Dead Men Meet opens in Paris in 1937. Europe is on the brink of war, although there are quite a few people who don’t believe it’s going to happen. Luke Hamilton works for the British Embassy, and whilst his day starts out like any other, it takes an unexpected turn when he is the target of an assassination attempt. Initially believing it to be a case of mistaken identity, he is forced to leave Paris and go on the run.
As he becomes embroiled in events of which he has little understanding, he begins to find some answers as to why he was left on the steps of an orphanage as a baby, and why someone now wants him dead.
Where Dead Men Meet is an entertaining story that takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of Europe shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. I thought that this was cleverly integrated into the story without dominating it. This isn’t a novel about the war, or the lead up to it – but it does give a good sense of time and place throughout the novel.
Luke is very much the reluctant hero who is pushed out of his comfort zone into a situation where he doesn’t know who to trust, or why various nefarious men are on his tail, and I found it quite refreshing to be faced with a character who doesn’t just start channelling the spirit of Jason Bourne as soon as someone takes a shot at him – rather, he’s brave in a “it’s me or them” kind of way. I did think that some of the secondary characters weren’t quite as well fleshed out, however – I didn’t fully understand Borodin’s reasons for helping Luke, and Pippi was a little inconsistent – brave and independent one minute, then a little needy the next. This is a minor point though, and doesn’t detract from the overall story.
I also found the ending to be a little too straightforward. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it all happened just a little too smoothly for my liking. Again, this is just my personal preference, however.
Where Dead Men Meet was published on 17 November 2016 in hardback and eBook formats – many thanks to Frances Gough and the publisher for providing a copy for review via Bookbridgr.