Imagine a train line which grew out of a pocket universe and spread across a fractured Europe. Now imagine this “Line” being its own state with borders and so on. Are you still with me?
‘The Line had been decades in the building. It had originally aspired to being a straight line drawn across Europe and Asia, […] Geography and simple pragmatism meant that this was never achievable,’
The third book in Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe series, Europe in Winter continues the adventures of Rudi, ‘the former chef-turned-spy.’ It begins with a deadly terrorist attack on a train and ends with a staggering “sleight of hand” at a major international airport. In between, the author takes us on a snaking journey around Eastern Europe as we meet a motley cast of characters who could be working for any side. Confused yet? You will be!
This is not a book which can be read standalone. It is essential you first read Hutchinson’s earlier novels Europe in Autumn (2014) and Europe at Midnight (2015), especially the first one. (I’d recommend reading them both anyway because they are fascinating stories.) Familiarity with the world Hutchinson has built in these books will make for a much richer reading experience.
Europe in Winter is a fascinating, complex, wise, imaginative, and funny story that should be read with a notebook by your side. It’s a book which requires your undivided attention because there is so much going on in here you can easily get lost. Wait a minute, who is this character? Are they the one from three chapters ago? Who are they working for?..
Speaking of the characters, they are smartly written, and each has their own personality and voice. It feels like there are a few too many at times, but this could just be me. I was delighted to be able to spend so much time with Rudi, a character I am very fond of. I missed him in the second book. I enjoyed the recurrence of characters from the earlier books, even if my memory of them was hazy. Reading Europe in Winter has made me want to reread both ‘Autumn’ and ‘Midnight.’
I really enjoyed the previous two Fractured Europe books, but I admit that I lost my way in both of them at times. In Europe in Winter, I got this feeling much more frequently. If Hutchinson wasn’t such a good writer, I might have found this frustrating. I think there was just too much going on to follow the narrative without constantly checking back to earlier chapters. The plot jumped around like a pan full of popping corn. But I like popcorn, so there we are.
Despite enjoying this story, I found it a little disappointing when compared to the previous two. Out of the first three “Europe” books, I enjoyed Europe at Midnight the most. Probably because it can standalone as a very cool sci-fi thriller. I am now tempted to laugh in the face of my TBR mountain and buy Hutchinson’s latest book Europe at Dawn. I don’t expect everything to be tied up in a neat little bow, but I am sure it will be a very entertaining ride with some great food and sly humour.
‘Rudi, the former chef-turned-spy, returns on a mission to uncover the truth–in a fractured Europe utterly changed by the public unveiling of the Community.
Union has been forged and the Community is now the largest nation in Europe; trains run there from as far afield as London and Prague. It is an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. So, what is the reason for a huge terrorist outrage? Why do the Community and Europe meet in secret, exchanging hostages? And who are Les Coureurs des Bois? Along with a motley crew of strays and mafiosi and sleeper agents, Rudi sets out to answer these questions–only to discover that the truth lies both closer to home and farther away than anyone could imagine.’