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A Lily of the Field: A Novel (Inspector…

A Lily of the Field: A Novel (Inspector Troy) (original 2010; edition 2010)

by John Lawton

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Title:A Lily of the Field: A Novel (Inspector Troy)
Authors:John Lawton
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2010), Hardcover, 400 pages
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A Lily of the Field by John Lawton (2010)



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A worthy member of the Troy canon, although perhaps not one to start with: much of Troy's backstory is taken as read, and indeed his shenanigans and foibles are less to the fore than usual.

The main interest of the novel, for me, lies in its clever interplay between fact and (historical) fiction, as in A Little White Death (a reading of the Profumo affair). Here Troy finds himself investigating a murder and the events in its wake which have to do with Soviet spies in England in the early 1950s. Yes, of course: Guy Burgess does make a cameo appearance.

Lawton as usual exploits his skill in the use of wry irony, as characters and their circumstances now well known are revealed in the novel not through the unfolding of events, but through Troy's super-sensitive reading of the situation.

Another special pleasure is Lawton's undoubted mastery of writing about music.

Happily, if rather surprisingly for Troy fans, our hero manages to contain his sometimes egregious sexual urges in this one. ( )
  jtck121166 | May 27, 2014 |
Cellist from Vienna, scientist from Germany. One to nazi camps, the other to A-bomb camp. This is just the back story. Then everything blows up. ( )
  kerns222 | Feb 6, 2013 |
"Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin"
Matthew 6:28
I think perhaps my reading of this book suffered from the fact that the series this is part of is already well underway. I definitely didn't enjoy it as much as my friend and fellow blogger at CRIME SCRAPS REVIEW.

In the first half of the book Lawton introduces us to a rich cavalcade of characters all affected by the rise of the Third Reich and the advance of Hitler's troops into Poland and Austria. Some, Jews, Gentiles, Viennese, Poles, flee to England as early as 1935 ahead of the advance. Others are snatched off the streets and put onto trains taking them to Auschwitz.

Some meet again in England when they are rounded up into internment camps and then shipped off to Canada. Others meet in Auschwitz. Some survive because of their talents, others because they sell their souls to the devil, some because they do both.

And then the war ends and we are back in England and the crime fiction part of the novel begins with the murder on a tube station platform of one of the refugees and the subsequent involvement of Freddie Troy of Scotland Yard, his own family Russian refugees just thirty years before.

I think the richness of the information in the first half of the novel made it hard for the reader to decide what was important and what wasn't, what did I need to remember for later reference? Looking at the two halves of the novel, I think perhaps the author had a problem in deciding what he was writing: a historical fiction about the dreadful events of the Holocaust, or a murder mystery set in a Britain still under rationing and full of very confused,damaged, and often eccentric people.

But where I am torn is that this is a novel that makes you think, and, as readers of this blog will know, this is something that I value highly in my reading. A LILY OF THE FIELD presents scenarios that were new to me, and situations that I have not given much thought to before. The historical detail is rich and authentic. I think perhaps it was because there was so much detail that I had a problem in achieving focus and I found myself wondering in the first half of the novel when the crime fiction was going to kick in. It seemed that in the face of such inhumanity an "ordinary" murder would be very low key.

Freddie Troy is an interesting and quirky character who really operates by his own rules and his own sense of justice. He's a maverick in a world that is trying to establish order. ( )
  smik | Mar 14, 2012 |
A well written mystery linking Hitler's extermination policies, Russian spies and the atomic age. ( )
  cfk | Jan 19, 2012 |
The last (??) of 7 in Lawton's series about Troy, a Scotland Yard cop/chief from the late 1930's to the early 60's with a heavy emphasis on the war years. Two question marks because there may not be an 8th book (what more is there to add?) and the second question mark because other books in the series leapfrog the action here, most of which takes place in the 40's. There are two story lines - the first part dealing with characters who wind up on the wrong side of the barbed wire. A lot of Holocaust stuff here, more than just story background. I have read an awful lot about about the Holocaust, and this book doesn't add anything new (can there be anything "new"?, I don't know). The second half is good Troy stuff, a bit of crime fiction, history, social mores, spying, development of the Bomb, and a lot of examination about why some of the characters did what they did, and perhaps not enough reflection on some of Troy's actions, e.g., escorting a confessed murderer to the border and waving bye-bye. A good book but not up to the usual. And I think Lawton gave the answer to my question above in Ruby's note to Troy. ( )
  maneekuhi | Nov 9, 2011 |
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A novel set before, during, and after World War II follows the loosely parallel lives of an Austrian cellist, Meret Voytek, whose orchestra becomes part of the Hitler Youth, and Hungarian physist Karel Szabo, who is recruited by the Americans to help build the atomic bomb.… (more)

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