When artist and Lieutenant Kenneth Brill is arrested for painting the countryside, authorities suspect it could be a coded message meant for the Germans outlining the plans for building Heathrow Airport. In custody, Brill begins his tale, weaving a childhood of boyhood fights and curiosities, with the more recent battles of WWII and his work as a camouflage artist, keeping his interrogator, and the jury, guessing as they decide on the truth and his fate.
The writer impressed me with his investment into every scene, and his effortlessness of storytelling. The writing is beautifully descriptive and often dark, bordering on the edges of morality, but with touches of humor, which almost makes up for the lengthy periods of back-story. Some, of course, is needed to understand Brill and what has happened, and why he has found himself in a cell, but after nearly twenty pages on the expelling, finding, and transport of manure needed for his father’s fields, I felt my attention slipping.
Brill himself is an urgent advocate of his own defense as he moves the reader, and his interrogator, through his life wrought with hardship and misunderstandings. But he tends to feel blasé at times, which makes him a hard character to sympathize with, even when we want to. Which of course might have been the intent all along.
In the end we, the reader, have been painted a truly complex landscape of events, many of which wade deeply into gray areas, until we are not quite sure ourselves of the outcome. For the invested reader, perhaps a second pass would help enlighten.