Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
It takes time and concentration to get the characters straight in The Traitor, let alone the several threads in the narrative, although there is only one basic plot.
We start with the murder of a banker in Venice, the removal of the tongue suggesting an execution by Freemasons. The investigating officer is Captain Kat Tapo, a luscious lady and lover of the state prosecutor.
A seemingly unconnected scenario but destined to coalesce, in the Doge’s virtual palace a computer wizard and internet tycoon is divesting himself of his lucrative business for some esoteric reason that must have some bearing on the plot, possibly on the fact that he was so mutilated by kidnappers as a child that he can’t appear in daylight. The reader accepts the situation with some difficulty and moves on.
To Florida where Holly Boland, a former army brat raised in Italy, and now an officer and American Intelligence Analyst finds hints among her dead father’s papers not only that he may have uncovered some momentous conspiracy but that his discovery resulted in his murder by an “induced stroke”. After this leap of deduction Holly packs a bag and flies to the Army base in Vicenza and on to Venice to find her father’s killer.
Threads come together. Holly is an old friend of Kat of the Carabinieri, and a former lover of Daniele, the traumatized computer wizard. And in the shadows, beavering away, is the hacker, coming over as the most focussed of all: a Libyan who has endured and witnessed such abominations that one can understand if not justify his intention to create Armageddon. Where Italians are against Italians (Venice versus Rome) the hacker has a broader agenda. Ostensibly an Islamist against the West, he is a psychopath who knows he is a psychopath, and uncaring. He is against life. And he’s for hire.
There is not one traitor in this book but many. The criminals are legion, societies are illegal, and authority makes its own rules. There are manipulators all the way up on a hierarchy of corruption. There are pseudo Freemasons, the Mafia, secessionists who would create another 9/11 in order to gain independence, there is the CIA. There are no jokes and an error involving abseiling which may go unnoticed, lost in an outrageous and subversive plot that will fascinate anyone who has ever wondered how far hacking might be taken.