The tiny island of Malta --- a mere speck on a map in the
Mediterranean Sea --- has become the target of the Nazi and Fascist
regimes. British troops are hunkered down trying to hold on to
this windswept island, strategically placed between North Africa
and the Italian coast, both held by Axis forces.
It is 1942; America has only just entered World War II, and
Malta, inhabited by a fierce, tough and proud race that dates back
centuries, has been ruled by Phoenicians, Romans, Sicilians, the
French and currently the British. The ancient island is being
bombarded around the clock by German and Italian warplanes as they
try to obliterate the one safe landing spot for the Allied Air
Force and submarine commands between Gibraltar and the Suez Canal.
The Maltese natives scramble for shelter in the island’s deep
limestone caves, some even setting up living quarters as the
bombers pulverize their island, leaving thousands of dead and
injured and entire cities in piles of rubble.
Max Chadwick is the British officer in charge of writing and
delivering the news to the local residents to bolster their morale
as they flee to bomb shelters daily. His job is to massage the
facts, to spoon-feed selected news items in a way that will keep
the beleaguered residents on the side of the Allies. But when
he learns of a senseless murder by a British officer of a dance
hall girl and pursues the story, he is thwarted on every front from
exposing the crime. Even though he discovers that this is not the
only murder of this kind, he feels compelled to investigate,
keeping his detective work a secret from his superiors, colleagues
and even his girlfriend.
Max hangs out with a group of British officers and their wives
and girlfriends: Freddie, a surgeon who tirelessly treats the
injured service personnel and islanders alike; Lionel, the
submarine commander and his seductive wife; and Elliott, a single
American officer whose presence and purpose are observed with a mix
of suspicion, gratitude and envy. Elliott is privy to vital
military information the Brits are eager to have, and, as a
representative of the American government, has access to luxuries
unavailable to either the British forces or even the most connected
of the native Maltese businessmen.
THE INFORMATION OFFICER is a thrilling adventure filled with
authentic, historical facts about a little known time in the early
days of World War II in a place whose colorful history has been
buried by the exploits of mightier nations. Author Mark Mills
spices these facts with not only the intrigue of espionage but also
clandestine romances between officers and their wives --- not
necessarily their own. In addition, it is evident that there is a
double agent who is leaking information to the enemy about troop
movements and locations. Add to that a serial killer whose motives
may or may not be connected to the espionage, and you have a book
that almost turns its own pages for you.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 22, 2011