Earlier books by Paul Watkins such as Archangel and The Story of My Disappearance have been distinguished by a dogged refusal to accept the strictures of the genre. His agenda clearly involves subverting the conventions of the thriller--the final impression being of a literary novelist who can deliver the kind of increased pulse count found in such novels as Graham Greene's The Ministry of Fear. His new book, The Forger, arguably Watkins' most impressive so far, has a brilliantly organised sense of period (Paris 1939). David Halifax is a young American art student who finds himself in Europe as it totters on the brink of the Second World War. His personal life and career appear to be in stasis when he finds himself arrested for forgery, after a crooked art dealer tries to sell some of Halifax's paintings as Old Masters. However, his legal troubles soon appear unimportant when the Resistance press-gangs him into forging a series of great paintings in a scheme to keep them out of the clutches of the Nazis.
It is hard to know where to begin in praising the achievement of this taut and atmospheric piece, which combines truly original plot motifs with effortless and authoritative scene-setting. Halifax is a sympathetic and conflicted protagonist, while the unprepossessing art dealer Fleury has the vividness and colour of all Watkins' subsidiary characters. The first-person narrative manages to freight in several acute observations on the human condition, all the time maintaining the principal effect of accelerating tension. --Barry Forshaw [via]