Most people don't know what occurred in Malta in 1942 during World War II. We hear of the bombing of Dresden or the London siege, but Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean was the most bombed country in the war. A strategic shipping and military supply port, it was critical to the Germans as they planned Rommel's advance, and critical to the Allies to stop the ability of the Axis powers to bring their armies together rather than fighting on different fronts. The people of Malta endured months of daily bombings, waves upon waves of bombs raining down and killing civilians as well as military forces.
Max Chadwick has been posted to Malta. He is the British Information Officer and his job is to report the news in such a way that the troops and the native people of Malta are encouraged rather than desolate. In his position, he gets the inside scoop long before anyone else. Or at least that is what he has always thought. Now there seem to be currents and counter-currents of information swirling around, plots and counterplots, until Max realizes that he has been naive and used as one more tool in the government's manipulation of reality.
Other factors complicate life for Max. He has been carrying on an adulterous affair with the wife of one of the submarine commanders. But, he has also met a Maltan woman, a newspaper editor, who he is rapidly coming to realize that he loves. Then he becomes aware of the murders. Five women, most bar hostesses, have been killed recently. Who is this serial killer who uses the war to mask his crimes? There are indications that he might be a military man. The military authorities want this information squelched, and Max is in their sights as he tries to discover what is going on.
This is easily the best book I've read this year. The writing is lush and starts slow and languorous. As the military action heats up, so does the pace of the book, and it becomes a page-turner that leaves the reader breathless. The romance is underplayed and never takes over the story. The plot is intricate and skillfully revealed. This book is highly recommended for all readers.