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The Colditz Legacy - Guy Walters

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Guy Walters / Paperback / Publication Date: 2006 / Publisher: Headline Book Publishing

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      21.06.2012 14:58
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      A decent attempt but no more than that

      The colditz legacy is a spy novel written by Guy Walters and is set in 1941 and 1973. The book is told in the first person perspective of Hugh Hartley who at the start of the book is a captain on service in Greece. The book begins with Hartley's troop being ordered to blow up a bridge in Greece, the German army are advancing and the bridge is needed to be destroyed to stop the advance. Hartley is a Cambridge graduate who at the start of the war joined the war effort but has up till this point not been engaged with the enemy.

      This is his first active command and he is determined to impress his superiors whilst trying to dumb down for his men, who like all war books are made up of the common working class. They make a mistake blowing the bridge and have to re-wire the detonator, in the meantime a jeep screeches across the bridge and Hartley proceeds to blow the jeeps window out injuring the driver. The driver turns out to be Captain Malcolm Royce, who has a dodgy tale of his troop being killed and he is escaping the enemy. Hartley and Royce soon become enemies and both distrust the other.

      Soon things go badly for the English and they are captured by the Germans, now Hartley and Royce are together in a prison of war camp, they try to escape and are re-captured and of course end up in Colditz. Hartley and Royce are now if not friends at least trust each other to a certain degree.

      There is something about a decent spy/espionage thriller, when I was a kid they seemed everywhere from Dennis Wheatley, Alastair Maclean and of course Ian Fleming but then they seemed to fall completely out of fashion and it was hard to find a decent old fashioned boy's own style adventure. Maybe tastes have changed again and we seem to be getting a steady trickle of decent WW2 adventure novels, maybe a bit of adventure and escapism is needed in today's stringent Britain?

      Anyway this is a novel set in two parts, the first is a classic Brits against the Germans as the two men seek an escape from the seemingly inescapable Colditz and the second a classic return to the cold war espionage novels of the 70's and 80's. In the second half, we have everything clouded in mystery and not everything is as it appears as Hartley returns to the now Warsaw pact East Germany (for the younger readers ask your mum's and dad's about the Warsaw pact and indeed East Germany).

      So we have escapism and then claustrophobia for the second, all in that chipper posh upper class English accent as we follow the adventures of Hartley as a young soldier and the head of British intelligence. I won't tell you how the two stories intertwine but you can probably guess, it all involves the mysterious Royce and of course we find out about his actions before we meet on the bridge and the story ends a little predictably.
      This novel was a decent attempt at a thriller/spy novel but in truth felt like it missed out on both by splitting the narrative, the two sides of the story would have been better if stretched to full novel length because the reader often questioned the rapidity of the events. So the escaping from Colditz seemed straightforward and rather easy, and considering that the castle is supposed to hold over 1200 prisoners some for over 2 years it did seem a little stretched for the new men to stop an opportunity that no one else had spotted. However, it made the story flow and rather kept the action along at a pace which didn't require the reader to consider the events too carefully.

      This novel I felt got off to a decent start but then rather got bogged down with the need to describe the differences between 1941 and 1973, ok we get the picture, more cars, more phones, more of everything, Hartley is older, more established, has hard choices to make, would the younger Hartley do the same. Right we have the point, Hartley is older with responsibilities, he can't rush off to Germany again, oh he can and does so all that was just a bit of padding and look there are more cars on the road.

      So a decent novel but don't have a burning desire to read anything else by Guy Walters and that perhaps is the biggest sign of a disappointing book, if it was the only book in a bookshop near a beach and had nothing else to read would probably read it, enjoy it and instantly forget it.

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