Saturday, March 10, 2007

Visibility - Boris Starling

Boris Starling


In late 1952, Herbert Smith, once an MI5 operative, has settled into his new role as Detective Inspector in Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad. Perhaps ‘settled’ is too strong a term, since his fellow inspectors view him with varying degrees of suspicion and disdain. When a call comes in to the evening shift of a body found floating in a lake in Hyde Park, it’s Herbert who forsakes the warm (temperature-wise, anyway) squad room for the cold, dense fog of evening. A quick rundown by the coroner tells Herbert that the man was drowned; no drunk who stumbled in the fog, someone clearly held the man under the still water until he died.

The next morning, the park, still shrouded by fog, is full of police, including Hannah Mortimer, the police diver. Hannah is not only obviously female, but also blind; her sense of touch more useful that sight in the often-filthy waters around London. It soon comes to light that the dead man was Max Stensness, a graduate student at King’s College in biophysics and medical research. Adding to the delicacy of the investigation, Max was gay, and the son of a Lord. Herbert, no stranger to delicate and clandestine investigations, perseveres. By retracing Max’s last hours, Herbert discovers that just before his death, Max claimed possession of a secret that could change the course of human history.

This novel, set during the Cold War era, brings to mind the classic novels of Le Carré, and his contemporaries. The author clearly did his research, and the people and situations are all period appropriate. Herbert is the classic outsider, investigating what could be a huge case, facing opposition on all sides. He comes across as very human; a man trying to do a job he believes in, to the best of his ability. The plot comes to light bit by bit, as a structure through the fog as one approaches it. The pacing works perfectly here. Readers who enjoy spy novels, Cold War-era novels, and an intricate story, will all enjoy this novel.

Rating: 8
March 2007
ISBN# 978-0-525-94996-1


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