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A Question of Betrayal: An Elena Standish Novel


A Question of Betrayal: An Elena Standish Novel

At one point in Anne Perry’s latest novel, a character states: "Look!... Great unbounded sea. Not another soul on it. Except the gulls, of course. Do gulls have souls?" It is not so much the answer to this question that weighs heavily on the plot, but rather the mere asking of it. It is referred to in the confidence game as “a tell,” and Perry uses it to expertly drive the story forward at a crucial moment.

A QUESTION OF BETRAYAL is the second entry in Perry’s series featuring London photographer Elena Standish, who has found her way into aiding MI6 during a pivotal period between WWI and WWII. In the opening installment, DEATH IN FOCUS, the action is set in 1933 just as it is here. The principal characters are Elena and her older sister, Margot, who lost her husband during the First World War. In the prior novel, each is being drawn into helping Britain in the area of political service whether they like it or not.

"A QUESTION OF BETRAYAL is appropriately suspenseful and tense, and shows how brilliant a writer and plotter Anne Perry is."

Peter Howard, who is Elena's “handler” (for lack of a better word), sets her off on a mission in support of MI6. They have lost track of an informant who is on assignment in Italy. Elena knows him well and can therefore identify him by sight --- an ability that none of Howard's secret intelligence service members possess. The plan is for Elena to be sent to Trieste in the heart of Benito Mussolini territory, locate Aiden Strother and find out what is going on with him. Aiden is risking his own life by appearing to defect --- playing the deadly role of double agent --- and MI6 needs to know if he is still alive and where his head is at after years of deep cover.

It does not take long for Elena to find “Anton Salinger,” aka Aiden Strother. She now needs to know if he was brainwashed into believing that he is this new character or if he is still acting undercover. Tracking down his handler, Max Klausner, would be helpful, but he is nowhere to be found. On the home front, Peter is verbally battling with his boss and head of MI6, Jerome Bradley, about why he would send a photographer on such a critical and dangerous assignment.

Meanwhile, Margot may have stumbled upon her own dilemma --- one that inevitably will be tied to the work that MI6 is doing. She is in Berlin attending her friend Cecily’s wedding. While she is out of earshot of Cecily's father and husband-to-be, she hears a discussion about duty to the Fatherland and its rising figurehead, Adolf Hitler. She cannot stop the wedding, but the information she gathers may be vital in helping Britain prevent another world war.

A QUESTION OF BETRAYAL is appropriately suspenseful and tense, and shows how brilliant a writer and plotter Anne Perry is. She proudly depicts a time when freedom of speech was not only valued but could get you killed if used at the wrong time in front of the wrong people. It’s a unique place to be from a historical perspective, in between world wars, and a period from which I'm sure Perry will be able to siphon out many more interesting stories.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on September 25, 2020

A Question of Betrayal: An Elena Standish Novel
by Anne Perry