I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s review team (#RBRT) in return for an honest review.
I gave Codename Lazarus 4* out of 5*
Spring 1938 and Great Britain is facing potentially lethal threats: the looming war with Germany; the fear that her Secret Service has been penetrated by Nazi agents and the existence of hundreds of British citizens, who are keen to pass information to her enemies.
John King, a young academic, is approached by his Oxbridge mentor to participate in a stunning deception that would frustrate Britain’s enemies. As King struggles to come to terms with the demands of his mission, he must learn to survive in a dangerous and lonely ‘no man’s land’, whilst remaining one step ahead of those in hot pursuit.
Adapted from a true story, ‘Codename Lazarus’ takes the reader on a journey from the dark heart of Hitler’s Germany, across the snowy peaks of Switzerland to the horrors of Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz, before reaching a thrilling and decisive conclusion, from which none of those present emerges unscathed.
I was looking forward to reading Codename Lazarus for two reasons; that it’s adapted from a true story and that it’s set against the background of WW2, a particular time in history I’m interested in.
This is a dense story to read due to the extensive details and descriptions built around the actual plot. I admire the author’s obvious knowledge and research to set the story in both the era and the places the protagonist moves around in. There is a wonderful sense of place.
The lead up to the war, the settling in of the plot, although well written and described, is too slow for me, mainly because I didn’t feel I was getting to know the protagonist, John King. I didn’t get any sense, initially, or as the plot progressed, of his emotions at what must have been an extremely tense time. I don’t think his internal dialogue works; a lot of the time the thoughts portrayed were too formalised and revealed nothing of the tension and apprehension of a young man newly learning to survive under cover in an dangerous and threatening situation.
And I felt the same about his personal life. The love angle with Greta became instantly too intense and then abruptly dismissed. Although I am aware that such immediate and tempestuous relationships must have happened during wartime, this neither felt passionate or particularly dangerous for either of them, despite them being citizens of countries almost at war with one another.
Saying that, as the story progresses , there are other characters who are extremely well rounded, who stand out by the way they are portrayed. And their dialogue is excellent and gives greater insight to them and their part in the plot.
All in all, I would have liked the beginning to move at a faster pace; I thought the pacing of the plot in the middle just right; but I would have liked a more gradual lead up to the ending, which felt as though it all came in a rush and finished the story too suddenly.
I don’t know if it was the way the novel was downloaded onto my reader but there are times when sentences, dialogues and paragraphs run together where there should be spaces so I ignored that. But there were quite a few punctuation errors.
This is a good story. If it weren’t for the fact that I felt the protagonist to be too distant from the reader I would have given five stars. A rewrite of only a few places to bring John King/James Kemp to life and another final, tighter edit, would make this an excellent 5* read.
Thank you Judith.
My pleasure, Rosie.
Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
Judith Barrow reviews Codename Lazarus – The Spy Who Came Back From The Dead by A.P. Martin. Judith writes constructive and very honest reviews and I trust her judgement. This is how a review should be written #recommended.
Thank you so much, Sally.I always appreciate your support. Jx
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Ah, interesting, interesting. I don’t know if you’ve read my review – I thought just the same. King was never more than a name on a page for me, but I didn’t want to add to my list of negatives in what was, basically, a fairly sound debut novel. Greta didn’t work at all – who turns up at a man’s house with an amused quip when you’ve just been stood up??!!
I did, however, love Brandt and the whole late 1930s feel of the book, and thought the Dunkirk bit was excellent. And I read the whole book – I’d have skip read after 40% if I didn’t like it.
It was vanity press published – if only people would learn by reading advice blogs about them, before spending money…..
Ah, I didn’t know about it being published as a vanity press. It is a good debut book though, Terry. I didn’t realise til yesterday that you’d read it as well. I’m a slow reader so I ploughed on… very slowly. Took me ages to read it. Checking out your review now.
Interesting review, Judith. It does seem from your review that the book could use a good editing pass, but the detail and depth of research is intriguing. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you, Dianne. The research is brilliant and needs no editing. It’s just rounding out thcaharcater that needs work. It’s a great plot though.:)
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Thanks for a mindful review, Judith. I’m sure it’s a difficult pitfall for a writer to avoid — describing the era and settings slowing down the plot, and perhaps taking away pages that would have been spent on the character. Well done, my friend. Hugs.
Thank you, Teagan. And, yes, I agree – it’s a difficult balance.x