Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But beneath the crumbling façade of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.
Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro — where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.
This is a clever novel merging the past and present seamlessly. As a reader, you become an investigative journalist, without having to move from your armchair. The setting is dramatic, yet has a simplicity, which contrasts wonderfully with the corrupt elements discussed in the novel.
At a crossroads in her life, Joanna leaves the difficulties of her career and love life behind when she takes a language course in beautiful Portugal. Attraction and intrigue draw Joanna to Nathan. He embroils her in his mission to discover the mysteries of his past.
The pace is a little slow to begin with but it’s worth the wait, as the past collides with the present in alarmingly ways that make this book hard to put down. There is a story within a story as time slips back to WW2 and the fascinating, dangerous place Portugal was during this period, giving this novel an original twist. The plot and characters are authentic and vivid, you can imagine these people, behaving in this way. This is not a romance, there is no happy ever after but a believable, satisfying conclusion to the mysteries, with just a few threads left dangling to let you draw your own conclusions.
Joanna is a good heroine who I think could have further adventures both in the present and the past.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars