Book Review: The Warning Bell by Tom Macaulay


1944. An RAF launch is heading towards the little French fishing village of St. Cyriac, on a “smugglers’ night, ragged clouds drifting like gun smoke, and the threat of dirty weather”. George Madoc is unnerved by the agent on board: a self-confessed assassin, who reveals more of his operations than George wishes to know.

Sixty years later George’s son, Iain,  tries to solve the mystery of what happened to his father during the war, and the cause of the rift between them that occurred when Iain was eight years old.

Iain's mother dies and leaves him a small case containing items relating to George’s wartime past. Amongst the newspaper cuttings and various other documents, Iain finds a map drawn by his father. The newspaper cuttings reveal that the wreck of the launch George commanded has been found and he is celebrated as a war hero. They also contain details of a horrific wartime murder. George never speaks of the events of his last mission to France, but Iain is convinced there is more to it than George being a reluctant hero.

After having followed various leads in England, which raise more questions than answers, Iain heads to France. At first welcomed by the villagers of St.Cyriac because he is the son of George Madoc, hostility grows when Iain threatens their peaceful existence by stirring up wartime memories of the German Occupation. As the story progresses, Iain’s search for the truth becomes an obsession in danger of ruining his personal life.

All the characters were skilfully portrayed, but I especially warmed to Iain. There were many reasons, but foremost was the way he related to his daughter, so different to the coldness shown to him by his own father; followed by his determination to not give up on his father and, finally, his all too human moments of self doubt and self recrimination at the unforeseen consequences of his investigation.

This novel, well written, with its various plot twists, kept me reading until the early hours of the morning.  The suspense builds slowly, but quickens in the latter part of the  book, rushing on to the dramatic conclusion as Iain discovers the village's secrets.

THE WARNING BELL is a brilliant story about the repercussions of a split second decision and a son’s desire to mend the relationship with his father before it’s too late. 

Note: Tom Macaulay is a pseudonym of T.D. Griggs.

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