Published by Silverwood Books on March 20, 2013
Genres/Lists: #30Authors, Fiction, Historical Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
I received this book for free from the author.
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Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. To read my interview with the author, David Ebsworth, click here.
Background/Concept (from author website): A Christie-esque thriller set on a battlefield tour bus towards the end of the Spanish Civil War. The facts – Franco began running hugely popular tourist trips to his northern battlefields while the Spanish Civil War still raged. At the same time, foreign correspondent Kim Philby, already a spy for Moscow – and ironically already decorated by Franco for bravery – was selected by Stalin to carry out an audacious assassination attempt on the Generalísimo’s life. What if such an assassin managed to secure a place in one of the tour groups as part of the assassination plan but wanted to escape by shifting the blame to a fellow-passenger?
How much do you know about the Spanish Civil War? A week ago, my answer was “not very much” but after finishing The Assassin’s Mark by David Ebsworth, I can confidently say that I know a lot more. At least enough to have a conversation with someone about it. Looking back at my reading experience, this surprises me because I was so wrapped up in the story and the characters that I didn’t realize until I had finished exactly how much I had learned.
Set against the backdrop of 1938 Spain, The Assassin’s Mark follows Jack Telford, a left-leaning British journalist, as he embarks on a battlefield tour through Franco’s Spain. Accompanied by an eclectic group of people that includes an aloof professor, a wise-cracking actor, and a couple of nuns, Jack promises himself that he will write the truth and not fall for any propaganda. The truth, however, is murky, and each member of the group has his/her own reasons for taking the trip. Led by a man named Brendan, a master at political rhetoric, the group is treated to five-star service, making it a bit easier to stomach the horrors of war. But is that a good thing? Because beneath the facade lies the possibility that not everything is as it seems.
One of the things that I love about this book is the author’s ability to appeal to all five of my senses. I could see the ruins, feel the jostling bus, smell the dank cave, hear the gunfire, and taste the food. Rarely does an author find the balance between too little and too much detail, and Ebsworth does it perfectly. He also has an knack for tapping into the human psyche. From common complaints that arise when strangers are tossed together for a long period of time to an individual’s raw survival instincts, Ebsworth hits the nail on the head each and every time. Plus, he’s a master at writing political rhetoric, with one of the characters skillfully turning conversations to his favor at every turn, many times making me laugh out loud.
Gut-wrenching and eye-opening with an explosive second half, The Assassin’s Mark is more than a book: it’s an experience. If you’re a fan of history or want to learn about the Spanish Civil War, then I highly recommend this book. But beyond that, if you’re at all interested in human nature or the effects of war on everyday people, I highly recommend it as well. Essentially, I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction (emphasis on historical) that’s not steeped a century-long love affair. And even then, it’s worth your time.