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Monday
May072012

Trapeze by Simon Mawer

Published in the US by Other Press on May 1, 2012; simultaneously published in the UK under the name The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The child of an English father and French mother, Marian Sutro speaks both languages like a native. While serving as a WAAC, Marian is recruited to join a secret organization. After receiving commando and espionage training in Scotland and England, she parachutes into France as part of Operation Trapeze. Marian has also been given a second clandestine mission, involving the delivery of a microdot to Clément Pelletier, an older man who was rather fond of her when she was living in Geneva. Pelletier, like her brother Ned, is a physicist doing the kind of work that could have a profound impact upon the course of the war; the British would like to smuggle him out of Paris and put him in a London laboratory.

During Marian's first undercover trip to Paris, it becomes obvious that Britain's clandestine agents have been betrayed. Much of the novel's tension is generated by the mystery of the traitor's identity. A couple of potential romances lurk in the background of Marian's dangerous life, which naturally cause the seasoned reader to wonder whether one of her potential love interests might be working for the wrong side.

Trapeze tells a fast-moving story in better-than-average prose. The characters are well developed and entirely believable. The novel's only drawback is its failure to surprise. The plot contains no unexpected twists and the identity of the traitor is rather obvious. The ending is probably intended to shock, but its abrupt arrival drains it of its force. Given all the tension the story creates, it's a bit disappointing that it doesn't deliver a stronger climax. Still, the ending is true to the story that precedes it; it isn't artificially happy, and to that extent it is satisfying. On the whole, Trapeze is an enjoyable and occasionally fascinating, if conventional, spy story.

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