The Blood of Others, by Graham Hurley

An atmospheric and stylish thriller.
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The Blood of Others is the latest instalment of the Spoils of War, Graham Hurley’s non-linear series with returning characters that spans World War II. The Blood of Others tells the story of Operation Jubilee, a combined operations raid carried out by Canadian and British troops on the French port of Dieppe on 19 August 1942.

Originally conceived as Operation Rutter, the raid was cancelled and resurrected as Jubilee. Operation Jubilee is infamous as an unmitigated disaster that resulted in one of the highest Allied casualty rates of the war. In consequence the raid has developed a great deal of mystic and scandal around why the mission failed, who was responsible and why it even went ahead.

Hurley has clearly carried out a substantial amount of research to explore these questions and to tell the story of the men who took part in the raid. The novel follows three central characters. Wilhelm Schultz, a former Brownshirt turned Abwehr intelligence officer is a well rounded and complex character that has emerged from the common street thug he once was, as much a thinker as he is a killer.

Canadian journalist George Hogan makes an interesting counter point to Schultz and his plotting. Hogan is an earnest Baptist who goes on his own journey of self discovery from the frozen winters of pre-war New Brunswick, to the air raids of wartime London. He meets Annie Wrenne, a free spirit who works for Lord Louis Mountbatten the head of Combined Operations. Wrenne is at the centre of the planning for Operation Jubilee and mesmerises Hogan.

Between them Wrenne and Hogan tell the story of the preparations of the troops for the raid on Dieppe, bringing in a cast of colourful characters. Most notably Larry Elder, an anarchist veteran of the Spanish Civil War. Hurley skilfully entwines their stories around Schultz‘s scheming. The results of which awaits the men of Operation Jubilee under the chalk cliffs of Dieppe. In the meantime, Wrenne puts Hogan in danger, dragging him into her own world of secrets.

The Blood of Others is an atmospheric and stylish thriller that reminded me of Alan Furst and Eric Ambler. It perfectly captures the atmosphere of wartime Europe in a thoughtful thriller that keeps the reader engaged through a web of complex character interactions, to its dramatic conclusion. There are also some wonderful cameo appearances from Hogan’s boss, the newspaper baron, Lord Beaverbrook; Noel Coward and Lord Louis Mountbatten, both of whom Hogan meets on the set of In Which We Serve. Overall this is a fascinating exploration of the best and the worst of human nature, and the devastating effects of war.

Alan Bardos is the author of the Johnny Swift thriller series.