Andrew Williams’ debut novel The Interrogator (2009) boldly tackles a tense period in the Second World War (or as we now must refer to it, WWII). Thanks to the predatory U-boats, Britain is suffering heavy losses from the Atlantic convoys. Lieutenant Douglas Lindsay, a survivor from a torpedoed ship, is working in London with the Admiralty Operational Intelligence Centre, The Citadel. They track U-boats, thanks to Bletchley cracking the Enigma codes. Even so, the attrition rate is devastating…
While interrogating captured German sailors and officers, Lindsay latches onto the idea that the Royal and Merchant Navy codes have been cracked by Donitz’ codebreakers. But, typically, Admiralty representatives are in denial and require proof. Lindsay, becoming obsessed with his theory, jeopardises not only his new love Mary, but also the lives of prisoners in a cat-and-mouse attempt at unearthing the truth.
Williams evokes the tense atmosphere in the Admiralty Tracking Room, and in a U-boat under attack from depth charges, and in a torpedoed warship.
Inevitably, moral ambiguity raises its head; what can be justified for ‘the greater good’? Yes, but it’s war.
The images of London in the Blitz are well done, and the characterisation of Lindsay, Mary and the German prisoners hold the reader’s attention. As a bonus, there’s Mary’s friend from Eton, Ian Fleming, who is pulling a few strings – and slowly smoking himself to death.
It’s obvious that a great deal of research has gone into the novel; fortunately, there are no info-dumps and the fascinating material emerges as part of the story.
If you enjoy period pieces about WWII, then you should find this a satisfying read.