VISIBILITY - Boris Starling

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

VISIBILITY is the fourth book from Boris Starling. It is set in 1952 in London in the middle of one of the last great, lingering pea-souper fogs.

VISIBILITY could be a reference to the fog which is all pervading and dictates all of the action and events in this post-war thriller. When biochemist Max Stensness is found drowned in early in the evening, in the middle of the fog, Herbert Smith, ex-MI5 and now member of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad gets the case because it's probably going to be an uninteresting one, and the rest of the murder squad are very unwelcoming and suspicious of Herbert's background.

VISIBILITY could also be a reference to Hannah, the underwater diver called on to search the location where Stensness's body is found. Hannah is Hungarian, blind and a refugee from the Nazi concentration camps.

VISIBILITY could also be a reference to the world of espionage. When Herbert gradually reveals more about the victim he finds that he is back looking at the world of spies, informers, the CIA, the KGB and MI5, despite the fact that he's now looking at it from the point of view of a murder investigation.

VISIBILITY finally could also be a reference to the events surrounding the end of the war and the dissipation of all levels of Nazi party members.

The design of the plot of this book intertwines a lot of historical components - setting the place and the time for the book squarely in a world still dealing with the fallout of the Second World War. Herbert Smith is an interesting detective character, having been forced from MI5 and feeling the effects of a life as a spy which has made him a very lonely, conflicted man. He has a complex and difficult relationship with his mother, currently hospitalised with chronic respitory ailments, exacerbated by the fog. Hannah is a lively, interesting, exciting character, who despite suffering dreadfully at the hands of the Nazi's is not a victim. She's a really strong, capable, independent woman and her blindness is not a disability.

The only minor criticism is that the final outcome is a twist of historical fact which is an approach that can be confronting - what is actually the truth and what did you read in a fiction book? Other than that small, probably personal quibble, this is a good, paced, interesting and involving book with some very engaging characters.

Year of Publication

It’s the height of the Cold War, and as the Great Fog rolls in over London, a man meets his death in the icy shallows of the Long Water. Some say he was just drunk, wandering through Hyde Park. But for Scotland Yard’s new detective, Herbert Smith, the body will lead to a far more interesting trail when it’s discovered that the young victim’s death was no accident. He was a biochemist, and just hours before he died he had claimed to be in possession of a secret that could change the world. Smith tried to turn his back on the murky world of spies when he traded in his job at MI5, but now he’s being tailed again, thinly veiled threats emerge, and Scotland Yard cannot insulate him against an underworld of international conspiracies. The CIA, the KGB, and even MI5 had every reason to want the dead man’s secret, even kill for it. As the body count climbs, it’s clear that each time Smith inches closer to the truth, he gets closer to his own perilous demise.

Review VISIBILITY - Boris Starling
Karen Chisholm
Monday, October 1, 2007

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