The Continental Affair

Written by Christine Mangan
Review by Janice Ottersberg

Christine Mangan is masterful at creating alluring characters and atmosphere with a hint of the sinister, as done so well in Tangerine.  She does not disappoint in her latest, The Continental Affair.  Henri and Louise play a cat-and-mouse game traveling by train and bus across Europe from Granada to Paris to Belgrade to Istanbul.  Henri lives in Spain with family and is involved in their business of organized crime.  He had escaped his life in Armenia when the interrogation tactics required of him as a gendarme were intolerable.  Louise is running from her restrictive, suffocating life in London caring for her demanding invalid father.  With so little money, survival is a concern, but still, she is compelled to abandon her old life immediately after her father’s death.

Henri’s family sends him to the Alhambra for a money parcel.  At the same time, Louise is visiting the historic site because of its association with her dead mother.  Henri waits in the shadows, the courier drops the parcel and walks away, but the money scatters.  Before Henri can act, Louise, in an impulsive move, snatches up this much-needed windfall.  The chase is on – his family’s money must be recovered – but his mission is complicated by his growing fascination for Louise.  Opportunities arise for him to retrieve the money, but he waits and follows and the game goes on.

The structure of the novel is complex and requires close reading.  Pivoting on a mysterious event in Belgrade, the narrative switches between two legs of the journey – before Belgrade and after.  Also, the perspective switches between Henri and Louise as they travel from train stations to busses and taxis, hotels and restaurants, bars and cafes.  Plot moves slowly, but Mangan will keep you hooked with the tension and interplay between Henri and Louise. This is a novel worthy of your time.