by Morag McKendrick Pippin, historical (2005)
Leisure, $6.99, ISBN 0-8439-5582-1
Blood Moon Over Britain takes place in 1942, right in the heat of World War 2. Morag McKendrick Pippin is already getting my two thumbs up for daring to do things differently from other authors, I tell you. Since I am always interested in the history of cryptography in World War 2, this story intrigues me because the heroine works at Bletchley Park, the headquarters of the British code breakers during World War 2.
Cicely Winterbourne works in the C Block. That means she's pretty much a file clerk. Don't scoff though - the fact that she's involved in filing means that every piece of confidential information passes through the her hands. Someone is slowly taking out her colleagues and Cicely knows that her life is in danger. Her cousin and colleague Graham and his boyfriend were killed - apparently by their own hands - but she's not so sure. They may even be traitors, although she has no idea which side those two men might be working for. Our hero Inspector Alistair Fielding is with the Scotland Yard. He had to hang up his military uniform due to injury and now he finds himself attracted to the woman involved with his investigation of the murders. Eventually these two will discover that Cicely has in her hands a vital piece of code that will crack the latest German encrypted messages and they will have to be on the run.
Blood Moon Over Britain, unfortunately, loses my interest the more the story progresses. Part of the problem is that the characters, while interesting in their own right, end up just sort of being there in the story, with the author failing to make good use of her characters' unique background to make them more memorable. Ms Pippin jumps the gun by having her characters nearly having sex barely 100 pages into the story so the rest of the story is devoid of any credible romantic or sexual development. It's just lots of action scenes interspersed with tepid scenes of heavy breathing and such. I'm also disappointed by how Cicely is supposed to be this tough heroine but Ms Pippin at the same time never fails to find contrived ways to make sure that Cicely always get rescued, such as her suddenly losing her gun at a critical moment.
The story is also muddled up by the appearance of more and more secondary characters that don't do anything other than to clutter up the story. The villains of this story are also shadowy types. Their identities don't matter, they are one-dimensional contrivances to keep our hero and heroine on the run. As a result, with no clear idea of the threat faced by Cicely and Alistair, I can't really get too much into the suspense. It's just one long chase.
Oh, and how on earth can Ms Pippin mention the Enigma device but overlook any obvious mention of its creator Alan Turing?
What makes this book memorable, however, is the way Ms Pippin uses cants and slangs of that era as well as vivid descriptions of places to bring the setting to life. The pacing is also quite decently handled, with the story moving along at a brisk pace and engaging my attention pretty well.
Therefore, I'm quite torn. This is quite an entertaining story, but at the same time the romance is pretty tepid, the suspense could be better, and the characters are pretty flat at times. Still, this one is still probably worth a look if you are searching for a different kind of romance.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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