Originally published in the Canberra Weekly on 11 April 2019.
Originally published in the Canberra Weekly on 11 April 2019.
Publisher: Zaffre (Trade Paperback Format – Australia – 3 March 2019)
Series: Tom Wilde – Book 3
Length: 317 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Historical thriller and murder mystery author Rory Clements returns with the third book in his electrifying and clever Tom Wilde series, Nemesis.
August 1939. War is on the horizon, and while most of the world is preparing for the next great conflict, Cambridge Professor Tom Wilde is enjoying a holiday in France with his partner, Lydia. That is, until a mysterious man alerts him to the fact that one of his former students, an idealistic young man by the name Marcus Marfield, is currently being held in an internment camp on the France-Spain border after his involvement in the Spanish Civil War. When Wilde finds Marfield at the camp he moves quickly to secure his release, and they flee the country just as the Germans begin their invasion of Poland.
Back in England, the country moves to a war footing, as the Allies attempt to persuade America to join them against the Nazis. While many Americans oppose joining the war, the sinking of the passenger ship the SS Athenia may be the spark that brings them into the war. With the Nazis attempting to convince the world that Churchill orchestrated the sinking of the Athenia to galvanise American support against Germany, Wilde and his companions return to Cambridge.
Once back in the city, Wilde begins to notice a change come over Marfield. At first attributing it to his shell shock following his battles in Spain, a series of mysterious deaths around Cambridge all seem to link to the recently returned Marfield. These events are tied to a deadly conspiracy to keep America out of the war for good. A spy ring is active in Cambridge, and Wilde must find a way to uncover it before it is too late. Can Wilde once again avert disaster, and what role does Marfield play in this conspiracy?
After the excellent first two books in his Tom Wilde series, Corpus and Nucleus, Clements continues the adventure of his series’ titular character, Tom Wilde, as he investigates a series of Nazi espionage activities around Cambridge in the lead-up to World War II. I have quite enjoyed this series in the past and was looking forward to continuing the story in Nemesis. The latest book is a thrilling story that takes place just at the outset of the war and utilises the several historical events and figures to turn this into quite an intriguing tale.
Nemesis is a really good historical thriller which combines a great spy story with the historical context of early World War II. The previous books in the Tom Wilde series have all contained compelling and complex mysteries with huge implications for England and the allies, and Nemesis is no different. Clements has crafted together an excellent mystery that has massive, worldwide implications, and I really enjoyed unravelling the mystery, especially as the author presents all sorts of doublecrosses, twists, cover-ups and mysterious deaths to confuse the reader away from the main goal of the antagonists. The antagonists’ master plan is quite out there, and it is one of those plots that would have had massive historical implications. I quite like the role that new character Marcus Marfield played in this plot, as the protagonists and the reader are constantly trying to work out what his secrets are and what kind of person he truly is. Overall, I found the thriller and mystery elements of this book to be quite clever and captivating, and readers will enjoy uncovering the full extent of the antagonist’s overall plot.
One of the most interesting parts of the Tom Wilde series so far was its setting during the chaotic pre-World War II period. In Nemesis, Clements sets his story right at the start of the war and immediately shows all the panic and preparation that followed this declaration of war. Clements did a fantastic job portraying the low-key sense of dread and paranoia that the inhabitants of England would have felt in the build-up to the war in the previous books in the series, and in Nemesis these feelings are realistically amplified now that the war has begun. The author has quite a good grasp on a number of historical events and feelings during this period, and I quite liked seeing the Cambridge viewpoint of the war. The Cambridge setting has always been a fantastic highlight of this series, but it was quite intriguing to see the author incorporate all the various changes to the city that occurred as a result of the war into his novel. Clements dives deep into the Cambridge lifestyle when it comes to the war, whether it involves the removal of the rare books from the colleges, the preservation of the stained glass windows, the roles that the professors were being assigned in the war effort or even the many Communist professors throwing away their party membership cards when it became clear that the Soviets were supporting the Nazis.
Clements also ties his story in quite closely with one of the more interesting early events of World War II: the sinking of the passenger liner the SS Athenia as it sailed across the Atlantic. I was deeply fascinated not only with the depictions of this event, but the discussions and conspiracy theories that resulted from it. This was especially true when it came to the examination about the sinking of the ship being used to bring the United States into the war. The likelihood of America joining in the war became a major part of the story, and it was interesting to see what the European characters thought about America’s reluctance to enter the war, especially as one of the protagonists is an American character, and one of the chief architects of America’s isolationist policy, Joe Kennedy, was the United States Ambassador to England at the time. I thought that the historical elements that Clements explored were a real highlight of this book, and readers will enjoy his literary examination of these events.
While the main focus of the book’s story is a conspiracy and the start of the war, Clements does take his time to continue to develop a number of the characters introduced in the previous books. For example, Wilde continues to deepen his relationship with his romantic partner, Lydia, and I quite liked the role that Lydia played in investigating the case alongside Wilde. There is also a significant focus on Wilde’s American friend Jim Vanderberg and his family, especially as Vanderberg’s family are passengers aboard the Athenia. Phillip Eaton, the British spy who was hit by a car in the last book of the series makes a return in Nemesis, and the reader gets to see his struggles to recover from his horrific injuries while still working as an intelligence officer. A number of intriguing new characters are introduced in this book and it will be interesting to see what role they and the existing characters will play in any future entries in this series.
In the latest book of his enjoyable Tom Wilde series, Nemesis, Rory Clements once again delivers a captivating historical thriller that brings the reader into the early days of World War II. Featuring an incredible overarching mystery and some detailed examinations of intriguing historical events and settings, Nemesis is a deeply interesting book that is well worth checking out. I am very curious to see where Clements takes the series next, and I look forward to seeing what impact Thomas Wilde will have on the rest of World War II.