Alistair Moffat’s gripping thriller and the historical novels of Flora Johnston and Wendy Holden: paperback reviews

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(Birlinn, £ 8.99)

The question “What if the Nazis won World War II?” Has spawned an entire editorial genre, but Moffat shows that there is still life. As London has been wiped out by an atomic bomb, veteran Norman David Erskine makes his way through occupied Scotland at the head of his own tiny Resistance cell, convinced that he can somehow make a difference. Since the future of their country literally depends on their efforts, they act with ingenuity and selfless heroism. But the simple pleasures of heroic action, clever plans, convenient distractions and sudden rescues are undermined by the terrible cost to rural communities, where the occupation regime tries to deter Erskine by killing townspeople too. brutally as possible. And with so many Britons siding with the invaders, it’s hard to know who to trust. Moffat extends the tension to the breaking point in a gripping yet dark thriller in which no one is guaranteed survival.

WHAT YOU CALL FREE

Flora Johnston

(Ringwood, £ 9.99)

The backdrop to Johnston’s first novel is the conflict between Kirk and Covenanters in 17th-century Scotland. But it opens with Jonet Gothskirk, 18-year-old pregnant, clad in a bag, rejected for unwittingly falling in love with a married man. To spare him some humiliation, Jonet’s mother sends him to his sister’s house, whom Jonet discovers to be a Covenanter, and whose neighbor, the widow Helen Alexander, frequently helps and shelters their leader, James Renwick. Jonet is shocked, seeing them as people trapped by a dangerous sect, which could have them all arrested. However, when her marriage to a shady old merchant is arranged, she becomes closer to Helen and the Covenanter cause. Once opened, this story of division, persecution, and clandestine gatherings is difficult to close, Johnston deftly evoking sympathy for the plight of his characters in a climate of oppression and danger in which high stakes accompany even the slightest challenge. by Kirk and King.

Herald Scotland:

THE GOVERNANCE

Wendy holden

(Wellbeck, £ 8.99)

The Crown may have cornered the market by weaving fiction out of the private lives of the Royal Family, but it still left room for others to explore the story of “Crawfie,” the governess of the royal family. young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, who was ostracized by the Royal Household for writing about them. One of the characteristics that appealed to Wendy Holden most was the modernity of Marion Crawford, and this novel examines how a progressive Edinburgh teacher in the early 1930s, dedicated to improving the lives of slum children, has agreed to teach two princesses, living among the elite and depriving herself of a private life until she left her post after 16 years of service. While the Crawfie in this novel is largely Holden’s creation, it is firmly rooted in the writings of Marion Crawford, and the author offers a gripping take on life in the royal household with some vibrant characterizations of the main actors.

ALASTAIR MABBOTT

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