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The Resistance: A Thriller (Louis Morgon…
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The Resistance: A Thriller (Louis Morgon Thrillers)

by Peter Steiner

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After losing his job at the CIA and his wife moved out and took his children and Louis Morgan decided to go away and walk across France. He liked the town of Saint-Léon-sur-Dême and bought a dilapidated home. While repairing it, he finds an interesting but unreadable mimeographed paper, resembling a pamphlet, and guns hidden under the floor.
Louis decides to learn the story behind the items and working with a local policeman, Jean Renard, and, as a long flashback, learns about the French Resistance movement during World War II when France was occupied by Germany and the Vichy government, cooperating with the Nazis, ruled. He later tries to interview some of the people who were actually involved or knew people who were.
The pamphlet, posted and distributed widely, tells the story of what has happened and encourages resistance. The Nazis try very hard to find and punish the publisher but with only one police officer, newly on the job and 21 years old, they are unsuccessful. Issue 16, published February 1943, states, "We are living under a murderous regime governed by treachery and deceit. Our own government has made it shameful to call oneself French." It asserts "The persecution and deportation of Jews" and notes, "Our civil servants and police not only aided in this cruel business, but in many cases they initiated it." It also warned that the Germans would turn on French accomplices and collaborators.
Some of my favorite observations by Peter Steiner are;
"When such a sudden and enormous upheaval occurs, as there has been in France, it can only result in chaos. Once order is obliterated and the law itself becomes lawless, all anyone has left is his own moral compass. And the personal moral compass is an extremely unreliable instrument. Convenience, opportunism, greed, malice–all these things and more exert a stronger magnetic force than virtue ever could."
"Once it became a reality, it was the only reality It was normal, everyday, even when it was horrible."
"These days we all have to do things no one should have to do....It’s these times we should be ashamed of. Not what we have to do to make them better."
"But like citizens of small towns everywhere, they were hungry for news–good or bad–about their neighbors, about France, about the war. Gossip is the currency of all small towns; malicious or harmless, it makes no difference. It all has the same high value. It fuels the social fires, the alliances and rivalries. It fires people’s passions and imaginations. And that is precisely what makes news so dangerous. Or gossip, for they come down to one and the same thing."
"It was what passed for thinking, but it was never even close. In that world, in that sort of thinking, you never started at the beginning, with wonderment and confusion, which are the prerequisites for all real thinking. You never abandoned your preconceptions so that you could see what was actually coming your way.
"On the contrary, you only used what came your way to buttress your standing, to seal leaks in your reasoning, to build a stronger, even more impenetrable, unassailable fortress of conviction. The goal was always something that only resembled knowledge and understanding but was noting more than chewed-over and rearranged predispositions. A position.. That was what you wanted. To have a position."
After the war inn which 60 million people died: "As time passed, mankind left the war behind, faster than anyone could ever have imagined we could, faster probably than was good for us. Proper healing didn’t matter. What everyone wanted more than anything else was to forget. Start over. Move on."
"I don’t have a version of history. All I have is a mountain of contradictory facts. Facts that aren’t facts, and facts that are facts. All mixed together.
"That’s history."
I’m giving THE RESISTANCE four stars because it is a somewhat fresh read on a familiar story and his analysis, quoted above, make it relevant today. ( )
  Judiex | May 21, 2013 |
We begin in the Nixon era, with CIA agent Louis Morgon suddenly being axed from his job. Knocked for a loop, he leaves his life behind and moves to a small village, Saint-Léon-sur-Dême, in France. While fixing up the decrepit cottage he's purchased, he finds a cache of weapons and French Resistance pamphlets. He takes them to Saint-Léon's lone gendarme, young Jean Renard. Renard has lived in Saint-Léon all his life, and his father, Yves, was the village's gendarme during World War II.

Yves Renard, like many other villagers, won't talk about the war. Jean Renard has heard rumors that Yves was a collaborator; that as a gendarme he did the bidding of the occupiers. Helping Louis investigate the cache provides Jean with an opportunity to delve into the history of Saint-Léon in wartime, and a present-day murder breaches the villagers' wall of silence about the war.

After a brief couple of chapters introducing us to Louis Morgon, Jean Renard and the finding of the cache, we are transported back to the war and the story of Saint-Léon's residents. We meet the village's mayor and councilmen, Yves Renard, young farmers Onesime and Jean, and their mother Anne-Marie, the widow Troppard, Count Maurice de Beaumont and his wife Alexandre and many other locals, as well as a shadowy Resistance organizer code-named Simon. The villagers take sides in a secret and deadly game of chess; one where a player can't be sure whether the others are playing black or white--or maybe both.

The subtitle "A Thriller" is a little misleading and may do this book a disservice. Although there is plenty of intrigue and tension in the plot, it's no bang-bang, action-driven story. The focus is on the secrets and lies forced upon the villagers by the occupation, the moral compromises they must make, and the effect these have on their relationships with their neighbors and loved ones. The pace is measured and deliberate. We have time to watch the seasons pass; to see birth, death and rebirth.

From a historical viewpoint, this is an insightful treatment of the development of resistance. After France was so quickly defeated, most hoped that life could go on as before. Many were eager to cooperate with the occupiers; at least the occupation ensured that the communists would not take over, they thought. Others had political and moral convictions that led them to resist from the start. The immediate resisters-from-conviction and unreflective collaborators are not Steiner's focus. He shows us, instead, ordinary people and the difficult individual choices they make. This is a subtle and sympathetic treatment of the moral complexities of life under occupation.

Recommended for readers who enjoyed Martin Walker's Bruno, Chief of Police and Sebastian Faulks's Charlotte Gray. ( )
  MaineColonial | Apr 7, 2013 |
Louis Morgon lost his job and his family. He ends up walking the French countryside to sort through the pain. He eventually settles in the small town of Saint-Leon-sur-Dême. He buys a small cottage and during renovations, finds old French Resistance flyers hidden away which present a murder mystery. For the majority of the book, the reader is in the 1940s town of Saint-Leon-sur-Dême with a young man named Onesime who maps the Nazi occupation and their activities.

The story follows the town over four years as the resistance makes inroads amongst the villagers. The burning question was who had setup several resistance members to be murdered. After the bulk of the book spent in the 1940s, you are back with Louis Morgan as he pieces together what happened and starts on the trail of the person who had betrayed neighbors.

Onesime, his brother Jean, and his mother, along with rest of the villagers, envelope the reader in a rural french town struggling under the Nazi occupation. There are no black and white issues or people in this tale, everything is shades of gray.

The town of Saint-Leon-sur-Dême is an integral part of the story. The network of caves that are owned by villagers to store wine barrels and food is taken over by the Nazi's and used to store arms and ammunition. The caves are a great atmospheric touch and realistic. The sense of fear permeates the town and characters.

The plot is an intricate cat and mouse dance of resistance members who can't even trust family, nor the local police. It is a walk in a mine field where even a slight misstep results in death - or worse.

The reveal of the informant who had resistance members killed is somewhat anti-climatic, but it was realistic. The writing was superb, with bold characterization, vivid setting, and detailed plot. This is a fantastic suspenseful story that leaves the reader on the edge of the seat, anxious to find out what happens next.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

4th in Louis Morgon Thriller

Sensuality: Rape scene, some violence

Main Characters: Louis Morgon, ex-CIA espionage agent

Setting: Modern day, Saint-Leon-sur-Dême France

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Mystery and My Musings Blog
http://www.mysterysuspence.blogspot.com ( )
  AFHeart | Aug 25, 2012 |
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French detective Louis Morgon discovers evidence beneath his house of a World War II massacre targeting resisters of the occupation, a finding that unleashes a maelstrom of danger, deception, and murder.

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