Australian Publication Date – 1 March 2018
World Publication Date – 25 January 2018
In June 1939, war is on the horizon. While many in England still hope to avoid another conflict with the Germans, it is becoming clearer that war may be unavoidable. Nazi Germany is aggressively moving throughout Europe, while back in England the IRA has embarked on a new bombing campaign.
While the world watches and waits, many governments have turned their focus towards a dangerous new arms race. Advances in nuclear fission have allowed scientists to envision a potentially game-changing weapon: an atomic bomb. Many believe that the research at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory will lead to the creation of the first bomb, and the laboratory is now the subject of intense scrutiny.
While holidaying in America, Cambridge professor Tom Wilde is summoned to the White House to meet President Roosevelt. The president requests that Wilde use his position to spy on the research at Cavendish and report their progress to the Americans. Upon his return to Cambridge, Wilde begins to suspects that Nazi spies may have infiltrated the laboratory when one of the Cavendish researchers is brutally murdered. As he investigates further, he learns that the murder may be connected to a wealthy family with Nazi sympathies and the famous movie star sister of one of his colleagues. Wilde is forced into a web of spies and assassins as he tries to discover what terrible plans the Nazis have for Cavendish. What does his long-lost cousin have to do with this plot, and how do these attacks tie into a kidnapped child that Wilde’s girlfriend, Lydia, is searching for in Germany?
Nucleus is a pulse-pounding thriller that combines mysterious events and spycraft with a dark historical background and a grounding in nuclear physics. This is the second book in Clements’ Tom Wilde series, and the follow-up novel to his 2017 bestseller, Corpus, which was a stunning historical thriller that featured a plot against the royal family.
Clements has a lot of experience with historical thrillers, having previously examined espionage during the Elizabethan era in his acclaimed John Shakespeare series. In Nucleus, Clements combines several intriguing storylines into one compelling plot that will draw the reader into the book’s many mysteries. With a series of hidden adversaries, twisting character loyalties and several shocking conclusions, Clements tells a first-rate thriller that combines well with his story’s historical setting and locations.
Clements uses his latest book to once again explore the period of calm immediately before World War II. Clements does a masterful job of depicting the dread and apprehension filling England as the whole country found itself drawing closer and closer to war. This bleak and foreboding historical period is the perfect setting for Clements’ thriller, especially as the characters realise the major repercussions their actions could have on the world.
The historical locations used throughout Nucleus are an essential part of the book and add a lot to the story. Clements once again returns to the Cambridge backdrop that was one of the defining features of Corpus. The academic background is used less during this book, but the reader is compensated by being able to see the famous Cavendish Laboratory. There is also a harrowing journey into Nazi Germany for one of the characters, Lydia, which Clements uses to full effect, highlighting the terror many German citizens felt during that time and their attempts to flee the country before it was too late. Another highlight of the scenes set in Nazi Germany was the interesting focus on some of the groups attempting to get refugees out of the country, such as the Quakers and the staff at the British Embassy. The reader also experiences Lydia’s palpable dread as she comes into direct contact with the dark mechanisms of the Nazi machine, and these scenes contain an amazing and appropriate level of suspense.
Due to it being a major plot point for Nucleus, Clements spends a significant amount of time focusing on the state of nuclear science in the 1930s. Clements does a good job of explaining the science in some detail without it getting too complicated. As a result, the reader receives a basic understanding of nuclear science of the time, at least enough to appreciate what the spies and nuclear physicist characters within the book are up to and are attempting to achieve. This is a good balance to have and it allows the reader to experience the fascinating early history of nuclear fission and the early arms race for the atomic bomb.
By infusing his excellent storytelling with a dark historical period, Clements once again delivers with an exhilarating historical thriller. Featuring a gritty and captivating storyline and making full use of its excellent historical setting, Nucleus is guaranteed to blow you away.