Knight of Swords
The winter of 1944 closes in on Northern Italy, and an officer fighting with the partisans is accused of betraying the group. He’s injured in a bloody rout, and the next thing he knows he awakens in a castle. The mysterious aristocratic Cavigliani family has rescued him and will hide him until he’s well enough to leave. Except as the snows pile up around the castle, it’s clear that everyone in the story is keeping secrets from one another – deadly secrets. The claustrophobic realization sets in that no one is going to be allowed to go free. It’s an intriguing premise for this polished debut.
First-time author Breckon’s anti-hero, a Kafkaesque James Bond, is as mysterious as the family. That was a problem for this reader. I heartily disliked him (and the book!) for the first 24 pages, in which he was nameless. During the long, tension-filled and gothic midsection, as the novel flirted with the occult, I kept hoping to get a better connection with all the necessarily secretive characters, even as Breckon’s writing won me over. Atmospheric scenes like this did it – the protagonist is on his way to a midnight tryst: “The vast hall was deep with moving shadows and frosted moonlight; through the tall arched windows the night sky was filled with falling snow… He was halfway to the far door when he halted. Standing still, he felt again the swift cold apprehension that somebody was close to him, a tightness at the nape of his neck…” Breckon’s mix of genres, gothic and World War II-tough guy, worked, but I still question the nameless protagonist at the book’s beginning and the disconcerting twist at the end.