It is an absorbing novel told from the first person point of view of Ruth Gilmartin in 1976. She discovers that her mother Sally was in fact really called Eve and before she married Sean Gilmartin, she was Eva Delectorskaya. Ruth learns all this from a manuscript her mother drip-feeds her. It’s quite disconcerting to find out that the firm foundation of your childhood is based on something as insubstantial as a myth.
Eva’s story is both interesting and intriguing. She is recruited by Lucas Romer, a mysterious Englishman working for British Intelligence. She undergoes special training in Scotland and then is deployed to Washington DC with a group whose purpose is to bring the Americans into the war and save Britain’s hide.
Then somebody betrays Eva and she goes into hiding. Now, all these years later, she’s sure who the culprit was and she needs her daughter’s help to expose him.
‘Always suspect. Always mistrust.’ Eva lived by these rules and Ruth begins to feel the same way in her workday encounters.
Boyd handles the female perspective well and neatly juxtaposes the past events in Eva’s life with Ruth’s current issues. There’s a brooding menace of betrayal throughout – emphasised by the father of Ruth’s child and Eva’s failure to mistrust.
The wartime period – and the hot summer of 1976 – are captured by Boyd; you’re there, in both worlds, because his writing style is deceptively easy to read yet honed to perfection. He's not too good with the action sequences, though, as the visuals are scant; but we're not reading this for the action but for the characterisation, which is good.
I’ve read earlier books by Boyd and none disappoint [though his later Bond outing (Solo) did, see my comments here].
From this book alone, it’s understandable why he has won a number of writing awards. A pity about the lousy title, though.