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The Winter Agent by Gareth Rubin

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Crime/Thriller | Historical Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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‘Based on real events, this is the gripping story of a man operating in the darkest of circumstances – and the unimaginable sacrifices war demands of those who fight it.’

The Winter Agent by Gareth Rubin is published with Michael Joseph. Described as ‘a love story, a war novel, and a twisty thriller’ it is a book that will both intrigue and fascinate anyone with an interest in the Second World War and the events surroundings its final days.

The Winter Agent is based on ‘a shocking historical conspiracy that reached the very top of the British establishment.’ Its plot is wrapped around real-life events and real-life characters who all played significant roles during this frightening period of history, adding an extra layer of authenticity to the novel.

Marc Reece is an agent with the SOE (Special Operations Executive). This was a secret organisation established by Winston Churchill in 1940 with the purpose of carrying out espionage by assisting local resistance groups in enemy-controlled areas. Theirs was a role of reconnaissance and where possible sabotage to obstruct the forward path of the Nazi regime and all that it stood for. These agents took great risks, many never returning home but their bravery, though secretive, was an important cog in the Allies defence against the evil reign of the Axis powers. The SOE fought a secret war, a vital resource when it was most needed. They parachuted into dangerous territories connecting with local resistance, together forming, at times, formidable alliances working together to collapse the might of the Nazi machine. This machine with its warped sense of righteousness was, and still is, difficult to comprehend, their determination to form a new world, no matter the human cost.

“Warfare was a noble construct prosecuted in dirty circumstances, and it was down to the Gestapo to clean away the dregs. That was something that had to be done once in every generation, he believed. He recalled chaotic times in the previous decade : hungry dogs tearing rubbish apart, grown men and women walking in their wake in search for food. Humans no better than animals. A breakdown not just of society but of natural and racial order. That couldn’t happen again. No, it couldn’t happen. And so he and his brethren would hunt down all those who might bring it about”

The Winter Agent is Marc Reece’s story. An agent who garners great respect, Marc has his own circuit in Paris, all with the same objective in mind. But Marc has not revealed the full truth behind his current orders. The war years proved to many that trust was a very precious attribute but also one that was difficult to judge. With spies among spies, who was truly on your side at any given moment. With D-Day fast approaching Marc is instructed to gather any and all information that would assist the Allies. But following a deadly ambush, Marc and his team fear a spy in their ranks. Marc has access to the ears of Churchill, his orders are top priority but there is a leak, somebody is attempting to sabotage his circuit. Who can he trust? Who is the spy within?

It is clear that in writing this novel Gareth Rubin exhaustively researched his facts. Yes The Winter Agent is a thriller, a fantastic spy novel, but it is also an informative tale, one that will shock and disturb. I was absolutely astounded by certain facts in relation to Hitler and his addiction to opiates and more. I love when a book inspires me to search out information myself, one that inspires and encourages my own sense of wonder and The Winter Agent most definitely did this in spades. It is also, though, a book that requires a certain focus, as there are many, many characters and personalities throughout with the story jumping back and forth between them.

Paris is a wonderful supporting character with some strikingly vivid descriptions of a city under siege but also of a city that has a history like no other.

‘Montmartre….Degas, Matisse and Renoir had lived and worked here. Toulouse-Lautrec had painted the girls in the nightclubs that sprang up clinging to these steep streets and the area retained a subdued air of artistic revolution’

D-Day was a major operation requiring the highest levels of cooperation and secrecy, but also deception. In The Winter Agent, Gareth Rubin wraps Marc Reece’s story around these factual and extraordinary events gripping the attention from the opening chapters. With an incredible cast of characters, my heart was shattered, rebuilt and shattered again on the turn of a page.

Marc Reece is tough, a man ready to follow orders and to aid the war effort in any way he can but with his trust in the powers that be on shaky ground, Marc is struggling. When one of his agents, Charlotte, a woman he had formed a personal relationship with against all his better judgement, goes missing, Marc faces a dilemma. Who is Charlotte? Is she the leak in their circuit?

‘It was hard to say how much of her now was a product of the war and how much was a product of her parentage, her upbringing and all the other influences benign and malign that shape one’s character.’

Marc must dig deep into himself to withstand the onslaught that awaits him and to unearth the truth behind this dangerous mission that he has been assigned. The powerful depictions of Marc’s journey are compelling, exciting and very gripping with the pace of the narrative never dropping.

The Winter Agent is a riveting tale of espionage and of one man’s courage and determination to see good prevail over evil. It is a powerful and dramatic novel with its roots set in the factual events of the most momentous battle of the Second World War. With some profound imagery, the reader witnesses the fear, the horror and the bravery. Gareth Rubin has created a captivating piece of writing that compels and astounds, shocks and angers. An impressive piece of work!

‘The hundred thousand strong military marches along these boulevards had been the dividing line between the world of hedonistic joy and this one of deprivation. Berlin had been born, developed tumors throughout its flesh and was now dying with fluid in its lungs.’

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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