Madeleine’s War is a very misleading title. This novel by Peter Watson about WWII espionage by the clandestine spy group SC2 should actually be titled Matt Hammond’s War. Matt is one of the high up muckety-mucks of the organization. He was wounded while in the field in France and now has only one lung. He still smokes and from what I could see it didn’t slow him down unless the author needed it too. Matt’s teaching new agents how to go about their jobs and it is in the course of this that he meets the lovely Madeleine. She’s the best in her class – the most beautiful, the most clever, the most talented. Yada yada yada – the gal is gifted. They fall in love and move in together for the brief time they have and then Madeleine is sent to France just before the invasion takes place. When she goes missing Matt has to wonder if she has gone to ground, been captured or if something much more sinister has happened. Was Madeleine so good at the training because she had been through it once before – for the other side?
I had several struggles with this novel. The first is that the rich historical detail is almost too much. I felt that with sufficient study of the text I myself could become a WWII spy. It’s fabulous to be supplied with enough facts to get a feel for h/h job but a line can be crossed and it was here. I also couldn’t reconcile to the lack of intimate knowledge I had about the titular Madeleine. She was a shadow character, a driving interest for Matt but we weren’t given enough information about her to really get a feel for who she was. I think this was done for the sake of the big mystery of the novel – is she or isn’t she a double agent – but I felt the book didn’t really succeed in making me question her loyalty. I didn’t doubt Madeleine’s character; Matt is too much of a Gary Stu to have made such a big mistake about her. I just didn’t know her well enough to understand anything besides her loyalty to the cause. The story isn’t awful; it just didn’t work for this reader.