Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson
Before we start a tiny warning. If you haven’t read books one and two of this ongoing series you need to stop reading this review right now. There are likely to be minor spoilers and I don’t want you hunting me down in the future and complaining that I didn’t mention them… I’m serious this is your last chance… Have the uninformed masses gone? Good, then we can proceed.
Union has come. The Community is now the largest nation in Europe; trains run there from as far afield as London and Prague. It is an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity.
So what is the reason for a huge terrorist outrage? Why do the Community and Europe meet in secret, exchanging hostages? And who are Les Coureurs des Bois?
Along with a motley crew of strays and mafiosi and sleeper agents, Rudi sets out to answer these questions – only to discover that the truth lies both closer to home and farther away than anyone could possibly imagine.
If you’re a fan of thrillers that have a science fiction twist then look no further. Europe in Winter has it all – assassinations, intrigue, twists, turns, explosions, pocket universes and more high tech spy gadgetry than you could shake a big pointy stick at. What more could you ask for? How about the fact that it is book three in an excellent ongoing series, its predecessors are just a little bit brilliant and I rather suspect that its sequels will be as well.
This third book in the Fractured Europe Sequence is an absolute joy. The labyrinthine plot follows multiple characters as they work for various factions. There are hidden agendas and political machinations a plenty. Countries, free states, duchies and tin pot dictators are all trying their best to grab whatever power they can get their hands on. The best way to do that? Using spies and agents to do their bidding. It very quickly becomes a game of “who can you trust”. Personal rivalries and nationalistic aspirations also rise to the fore. On top of all that, there are also the members of The Community, the gentrified English alternative Europe that exists in a pocket reality that sits next to our own.
Amidst these myriad plots, we once again find the quiet island of calm that is Rudi. Still a spymaster for the mysterious Les Coureurs des Bois, he has reached the end of his tether. He still hasn’t discovered who is pulling all the strings behind the scenes. It turns out things are far more personal than he could have ever imagined. Our favourite operative and part-time chef decides it is high time to rattle a few cages and rattle them he does.
Tonally, Dave Hutchinson’s writing perfectly captures what I want from a modern thriller. There are plots and counterplots to uncover, while the action rattles along at a breakneck pace. This is wonderfully complex and captivating stuff. As an added bonus, in this novel we also get to learn more detail about the history and creation of The Community. We finally learn just how far their influence has bled into our world.
I like to imagine when he is not writing the Fractured Europe novels, Dave Hutchinson can be found in a darkened room in front of large pinboard that has a map of Europe fixed to it. At his side there are also a handful of slightly blurred photographs. On the map many lengths of string connect the coloured pins together in various intricate complicated patterns. I expect, sadly, it is not like that at all, but a man can dream. I was just wondering if we could perhaps create a kickstarter so we could have Dave Hutchinson’s brain preserved in amber so that future generations could marvel at it? Having his entire body preserved could be a stretch goal. Just an idle thought.
My musical recommendation for reading Europe in Winter is the soundtrack to Spy Game by Harry Gregson-Williams. I had to go with something that was suitably espionagey*. Alternately Henry Jackman’s soundtrack for Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an acceptable substitute at a pinch
How best to sum up Europe in Winter then? The best analogy I can come up with is that this novel is the bastard son of The Third Man and Inception. I should stress however, that this is meant is the highest of compliments. Merging together the very best of the thriller genre with the best of science fiction this book is just that damn entertaining and that damn good. If I ever met Dave Hutchinson I don’t imagine I would be able to speak never mind produce a coherent sentence. I would be in awe of his very presence.
Europe in Winter is published by Solaris and is available now. I genuinely can’t recommend this novel highly enough. (You probably spotted that.) Buy it and relish a masterful storyteller at the top of his game. In fact do yourself a favour, get a copy of the first two books and revel in the whole bloomin’ lot.
*Yes, “espionagey” is a word. I saw someone use it on Twitter one time, so it must be true.