Published: 15/12/2017
ISBN: 9781788039888
eISBN: 9781788033787
Format: Paperback/eBook

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A Time for Role Call
by Doug Thompson

It is 1946, and former debutante Sally Jardine-Fell is in prison awaiting trial for a murder she didn’t commit.

Set mainly in wartime Italy, A Time for Role Call follows the strange, eventful path of Sally’s life, taking us from blitzed London via Yorkshire, where Sally first meets the enigmatic Adam, to Fascist Rome and the bed of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s Foreign Minister and the focus of Sally’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) mission.

Following Ciano’s sudden fall from grace early in 1943, Sally’s mission is aborted. The subsequent Allied invasions, Mussolini’s overthrow, and the German occupation lead her to quit Rome. With increasing difficulty and some hair-raising experiences, she makes her tortuous way north towards Switzerland. En route she encounters deserting German soldiers, an escaped Australian PoW, Italian brothers avoiding military service, mountain shepherds, a French nun, Italian partisans – as well as, all too briefly, the long-lost Adam.

Shortly after the war, back in London, Sally again meets with Silvio, an Italian restauranteur whom she had known there previously, her subsequent SOE superior, but whose loyalties she has long suspected. Aware of her suspicions, Silvio now tries to kill her. But it is he who dies, though not by her hand...

Former Professor of Modern Italian language, history and literature, Doug Thompson draws on his intimate knowledge of Italy to write a lively novel with a feisty protagonist and colourful cast of supporting characters. The book will appeal to readers of historically based fiction, those with an interest in Italy – especially the war years – or any who have enjoyed Doug’s previous works, To the Great Sea (Matador, 2011) and Checkmate (Matador, 2013).

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This was a book I found a little difficult to get into, but once I got into the rhythm of the writing, it was fascinating and well worth it.

Mostly taking place in wartime Italy, it follows Sally Jardine-Fell, a former debutante, from Yorkshire, to heavily bombed London, Rome and finally in 1946, to prison. Incarcerated, accused of a murder she didn't commit and waiting for her trial to start, we follow the path that got her there.

On a Special Ops mission, Sally was sexually involved with Mussolini's Foreign Minister, but with his downfall and the Allied invasions, she aborts the mission and embarks on a frightening trip to Switzerland. On the road she meets many interesting characters - I really enjoyed that part of the story.

In London after the war, she meets up with her SOE boss - someone she was always suspicious of. He tries to kill her, but gets killed himself instead. Although innocent, Sally ends up in jail for his murder.

This adventurous story sucked me in after a shaky was a wonderful book that will stay with me for quite a while. Well researched with an extremely interesting protagonist, I definitely recommend it.

by Hannelore Cheney (via NetGalley)


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