‘Pete looked around him at the river, the wooded banks. He realised he didn’t know this stretch of water at all. […] “GPS has gone down,” he said.
Hannelore just grinned and shook her head. “Nah, it’s okay, Captain,” she said. “I know the way. I’ll show you.”‘
In Tallinn, Alice – a junior Scottish diplomat – is drawn into an incomprehensible plot spanning decades. In the Aegean, young refugee Benno makes a desperate break for freedom and finds himself in a strange new life.
On the canals of England, a fleet of narrow boats is gathering. Rudi, now a seasoned Coureur, finds himself drawn away from the kitchen one last time as he sets out with his ally Rupert in pursuit of a dead man.
This book is the fourth and–probably–final entry in Dave Hutchinson’s “Fractured Europe” series. It’s difficult to write a summary of the novel because there is so much going on in here. As this book is the fourth in a series, it features characters and plot threads from each of the previous books as well as some new characters. Therefore, if you are new to this series, do not start here.
Despite Europe at Dawn’s beginning-sounding title, the first book in the series is Europe in Autumn. I highly recommend it, as I do each of the following books. They are tightly-written thrillers peppered with humour and bubbling with ideas. Hutchinson has a knack for writing believable characters. He is a master of placing ordinary people in extraordinary situations. This is one of the ways he draws you into his fractured Europe.
In Europe at Dawn, we meet Alice, a junior cultural attache at the Scottish Embassy in Estonia. We are lulled into her day-to-day life with a false sense of security, getting to know some of her co-workers as well as her unforgettable husband, Rob. She quickly gets caught up in a bizarre plot involving bar-fighting folk singers and a stolen Saint’s skull.
Then there is Benno, a teenage refugee who finds himself on a Greek island that is peopled with other refugees from Africa and Asia. He dreams of getting to mainland Europe but is surely not prepared for all this entails. Again, excellent character writing by the author. This is an eye-opening depiction of a current crisis, and Hutchinson’s skill makes it feel much closer, much more real than mainstream media ever dares. By using a narrow focus and putting a human face on the crisis, Hutchinson helps us to empathise with it. Stunning work, sir.
I was delighted to read more about the mainstay character of the series, Rudi. He was the focus of the first book and quickly became one of my favourite fictional characters of the last five years. I am very pleased with Hutchinson’s decision to depict Rudi at different stages of his life throughout the series. It’s saddening that this may be the last we hear from Rudi but you never know. Hutchinson has hinted that he has ideas for more stories and has said “if it doesn’t have Rudi in it, it doesn’t count as a Europe book.” So maybe this isn’t the end?
What I want to make very clear is that I have thoroughly enjoyed each book in this series. As I wrote earlier, I recommend them all. If I had more time, I would love to re-read all four books back-to-back in one long sequence.
Dave Hutchinson’s “Fractured Europe Sequence”