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The latest book from the prolific Frayn, a British playwright (Noises Off!) and novelist (Headlong, 1999), is a compelling story about secrecy and betrayal. Stephen Wheatley returns to the neighborhood where he grew up during World War II and slowly pieces together a disturbing incident from his childhood. When his best friend, Keith, announces that his mother is a German spy, the two take to following her everywhere--to the post office, the market, her sister's house. They rifle through her desk, read her diary, and spy on her from behind the shrubs near Keith's house. What they don't realize is that Keith's mother does indeed have something to hide, but her secret is not what they think; their spying has far more personal and devastating consequences than they could have imagined. Frayn builds quite a bit of suspense, and the reader is always one step ahead of Stephen in discerning the nature of the secret. What is truly remarkable about this novel, though, is the way Frayn perfectly captures the dynamics of childhood friendships. --Joanne Wilkinson
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Following up Booker Prize finalist Headlong and the Tony Award-winning Copenhagen, Frayn crafts a story of World War II London, where two boys playing at spy discover things about family and neighbors they shouldn't know. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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By the author of the bestselling Booker Prize finalist Headlong, this dark, nostalgic and bittersweet parable evokes the childhood escapades of an isolated and hapless young boy caught up in the uncertainties of wartime London in the early 1940s, just after the horrors of the Luftwaffe blitz. Stephen Wheatley, now a grandfather living abroad, is drawn back to London to revisit his boyhood home, to deal with the complexities and eventual tragedy engendered by what seemed a harmless game of spy when he was just a schoolboy during WWII. His best friend at the time was Keith Hayward, the bright son of rather standoffish parents; Keith and Stephen embark on a childish adventure after Keith announces that his British mother is a German spy. The murky plot follows their frustrations as they try to shadow Keith's mum as she goes through the mundane ritual of stopping by her sister's house with letters and a shopping basket, only to disappear into the neighboring streets. Discovering at last that she takes a route through the culvert beneath the railroad and leaves letters in a box hidden on the other side, they eventually learn that she sometimes meets a tattered, bearded tramp hiding in a bombed-out cellar. When Keith's mum finally realizes they have found her out, she secretly seeks Stephen's loyalty, making him complicit. Thrust into a role far beyond his years, but helpless to refuse, he is overwhelmed. As it plays out to a surprising denouement, this enigmatic melodrama will keep readers' attention firmly in hand. (Apr. 3) Forecast: Fans of Headlong may miss that novel's dark comedy, but those who appreciate Frayn for the rigorous intelligence of his fiction will find him in fine form here. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved