2012-10-18 / Opinions

Book Review

House of the Hunted
By Mark Mils
Reviewed by

Suspense novels come in assorted styles. This reviewer is not fond of the violent ones, and will not read of children or animals in jeopardy. However, a likeable protagonist in danger and an uncertain outcome appeal to most of us.

House of the Hunted is Mark Mills’ fourth mystery novel. Amagansett won the “Best Crime Novel by a Debut Author” several years ago. Mills does not present readers with a continuing detective character, and one cannot count on a happy solution, and his books are “page turners.”

An opening episode in 1919 introduces Tom Nash, a young British diplomat in Russia. He loves a Russian woman and has come to try to release her from prison before she is executed for resisting the new Communist power. As that chapter ends, Tom, instead of escaping, is considering murder.

The story begins again on the French Riviera in 1935. After many years of espionage and violence, Tom has “retired” to his elegant villa on the coast of France. Although obviously historic figures like Hitler and Mussolini must be mentioned, the characters are enjoying life in the sun, eating and drinking and having amusing conversations.

Tom is the host for dinner parties for his friend and former boss, Leonard, and his wife and stepdaughter Lucy. Lucy is Tom’s goddaughter, and it is clear that they are in love, though the age difference keeps their love unspoken. Among other dinner guests are Yevgeny and Fanta, White Russians living in exile, a young American artist Walter, old friend Barnaby, and German dissidents Klaus and Ilse. These characters are likeable and interesting; when trouble develops, the reader does not want any of them to be the villains.

Trouble comes in the person of an assassin who creeps into Tom’s room one night. He is dispatched by Tom, who has not forgotten his old skills, but now he is no longer safe from his past. Not only must he protect himself and find out who wants him dead, but also he needs to protect his friends and his sanctuary. Mills does not emphasize the political and military background of the story. It is not government secrets that are at risk; it is lives, and lives that we care about. Mills writes in a style that holds us breathless, interspersed with the love story and hints of the old friendships and enemies.

House of the Hunted is available at the Mary Willis Library.

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