Written by Books

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Another title that has been kicking around in my home for a while, but which has all the ingredients for me to really enjoy. Spies at wartime; a post-war BBC radio setting; multiple timelines.

Juliet has been plucked from an administrative government job to help run a monitoring operation out of a London flat. The flat next door has been wired with microphones to record a government agent whose job it is to gather up Nazi sympathisers and persuade them that he’s actually a Nazi spy himself. Juliet’s job is to transcribe the recordings of these conversations. But as time goes on, her role expands.

As with any good spy story, there’s distrust at the heart of it, and we’re never quite sure who is truly to be believed.

A second timeline follows Juliet in her post-war role, working in children’s radio for the BBC, where she seems to be coasting to a certain extent. When she meets one of her former colleagues in the street but is ignored by him, it sets off a chain of events.

I really enjoyed this intricate story that felt very real, dealing with those whose views would have been considered traitorous. Atkinson has clearly done her homework – much of the information about secret recordings was based on accounts of the secret listeners in Trent Park in North London, where German officers were held as prisoners of war in very relaxed confines. Unbeknownst to them, the British has wired the place up with microphones to gather intelligence from loose-lipped German officers speaking amongst themselves.

Atkinson has a new Jackson Brodie book that has just come out in paperback – so I’ll be getting onto that soon.

Trent Park-5