Nucleus

Written by Rory Clements
Review by Gordon O'Sullivan

Nucleus, a thriller from Rory Clements, best known for his Tudor espionage novels, is set just months before the outbreak of the Second World War. Readers are reunited with American Cambridge history don, Tom Wilde, in a strange period of calm before a war that feels all but inescapable.

Despite his previous spying adventures in Corpus (HNR 80), nothing has prepared Wilde for the challenges he is about to face, with German, British and American scientists in murderous competition in a race to design and build the first nuclear bomb. Wilde must contend with Nazi agents, child kidnapping, an IRA bombing campaign in England and a ferociously complicated love life. Even the brainpower of a Cambridge professor is stretched to its limits by the knotty collection of puzzles in Nucleus.

The complex character of Tom Wilde is the central core of Nucleus. His principles, and the lengths he will go to protect both those principles and the people he loves, help drive the tangled plot. Wilde is no saint, however, and his unusual relationships provide real depth to the novel. The plot is the thing in Nucleus, though with multiple narrative strands spinning throughout. Somehow Clements manages to keep a firm grip on both his readers and his narrative, creating a pacy and dramatic historical spy thriller in the process. There is little time to draw breath as the author weaves his magic and places his characters in a series of increasingly dangerous situations. As the twisty plot drives the main characters towards the gripping conclusion, everyone finally must take a side and put their beliefs and lives on the line. An excellent read that will surely not be the last we hear of Professor Tom Wilde.