THE BRAND-NEW THRILLER FROM THE #1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
– The Night Gate
Welcome to my stop on tour with Peter May and my review of his latest novel, The Night Gate, Book 7 in The Enzo Files. Just published with riverrun March 18th, The Night Gate is a book born out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Enzo McLeod, the main character of The Enzo Files and now retired, has been resurrected for one last bite of the cherry, so to speak, mixing the historical with the contemporary in this novel that has been described as ‘the razor-sharp finale’ to the series.
[ About the Book ]
In a sleepy French village, the body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree. A week later a famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house. The deaths occurred more than seventy years apart.
Asked by a colleague to inspect the site of the former, forensics expert Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter. Two extraordinary narratives are set in train – one historical, unfolding in the treacherous wartime years of Occupied France; the other contemporary, set in the autumn of 2020 as France re-enters Covid lockdown.
And Enzo’s investigations reveal an unexpected link between the murders – the Mona Lisa.
Tasked by the exiled General Charles de Gaulle to keep the world’s most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as it is moved from château to château by the Louvre, she finds herself just one step ahead of two German art experts sent to steal it for rival patrons – Hitler and Göring.
What none of them know is that the Louvre itself has taken exceptional measures to keep the painting safe, unwittingly setting in train a fatal sequence of events extending over seven decades.
Events that have led to both killings.
The Night Gate spans three generations, taking us from war-torn London, the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Berlin and Vichy France, to the deadly enemy facing the world in 2020. In his latest novel, Peter May shows why he is one of the great contemporary writers of crime fiction.
[ My Review ]
The birth of The Night Gate has a fascinating story behind it that even Peter May had not anticipated. The book he was supposed to be publishing involved some intense research that would take him to the Arctic Circle and onto some very exciting sailing trips involving melting glaciers and the international research station at Ny-Ålesund in Norway. But the chaos of Coronavirus soon put paid to all this and Peter May had to rethink. Living in France, confined by the various lockdowns and restrictions, he recalled an exhibition in the town hall of a local village near his home. Its subject was the artwork that had been protected from the Nazi occupation in Paris during the Second World War. These works of art, including The Mona Lisa, were kept at the Château de Montal but all the work from the Louvre could not be accommodated there and other additional premises were used for storage. Peter May made the incredible discovery that he actually owned one of the building used. He hadn’t at the time considered this discovery for a plot in one of his books but when he found himself in lockdown the seed germinated and the premise for The Night Gate was born.
Peter May decided to mix fact with fiction, the historical and the contemporary, using actual people and true events from the past to create a fascinating ‘what if?’ tale. Awakening his character Enzo MacLeod, now retired from his work in forensics, Peter May set about intertwining a dual line story of espionage, intrigue and murder. Making an executive decision Peter May decided to incorporate the current pandemic into the narrative, something which was strange to read yet was also comfortably familiar in many ways.
The discovery of a body buried in a small village brings Enzo MacLeod to the scene. An archaeological acquaintance asks a favour of MacLeod to look at the area and to give his thoughts on what he finds. When he arrives, the village is suffering a fresh trauma after the murder of an out-of-town business man in the home of a local. MacLeod is recognised by the local police who quickly request his assistance. The initial scene reveals a case that appears relatively straight forward. A suspect is identified and is on the run but where is the connection and why? In the meantime it is revealed that the historical victim is wearing a uniform dating from the Nazi regime, a member of the party shot and hidden under pipes never to be discovered but for a tree rotting at its roots and pulling away from the earth revealing its treasure to all.
Two unrelated bodies in one small village. What secrets does this village hold? Although retired MacLeod is intrigued and, with his tenacious and investigative approach to a case, he begins to unravel the complexities of this sorry mess. Through the voice of a elderly resident, the reader is catapulted back to the war years and the Occupation, when the French people feared for their lives, when neighbours became enemies and when the greed of the German officialdom was clear for all to see. Peter May takes his reader to Hitler’s Berghof and Göring’s Carinhill. We become acquainted with Rose Valland, an art gallery curator who, through meticulous recording, managed to track down much of the Nazi commandeered art after the war and return it to its rightful home. References are made to an incident in Saint-Céré where civilians were saved from a massacre due to the persistence of a resident. There are many such insightful and factual historic events that are seamlessly intertwined into The Night Gate adding to its authenticity and to the compelling nature of the plot.
Georgette Pignal is our heroine in The Night Gate. Fluent in French, she proves useful to the British spy network and is sent into Paris to protect the Mona Lisa at any cost, after it becomes evident that Hitler wants it for his museum that he plans to build in Austria. But Göring evidently also wants it for his private collection. Neither want to be seen as thieves so they need it obtained in a moderated and unsuspecting fashion. Georgette soon finds herself caught up in this madness and the fear for her life becomes very real indeed.
MacLeod unearths some interesting information that leads him to suspect that both victims are in some way linked but first he needs to find the evidence. Curtailed by Covid restrictions he uses the resources available to him, one very personal that has a deep impact on his well being.
The Night Gate is a highly enjoyable page-turner with a very gripping plot that weaves back and forth between the 1940s and the present day. Enzo MacLeod is a brilliantly depicted character and we get a closer look at his own personal relationships with both others and himself.
A very engaging and intriguing read, The Night Gate captures the imagination with an ingenious concept at its core regarding Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. On completion the reader will be compelled to read further on this subject, which adds an extra layer to this riveting tale of secrecy and murder.
[ Bio ]
PETER MAY was an award-winning journalist at the age of just twenty-one, winning ‘Young Journalist of the Year’. He left newspapers for television and screenwriting, creating three prime-time British drama series and accruing more than 1,000 television credits. May is published in 32 languages, has sold several million copies worldwide as well as winning numerous awards. His novel I’ll Keep You Safe (2018) was no.1 and his next novel, The Man With No Face, no.2 in The Times charts. His most recent novel Lockdown was in The Sunday Times bestseller lists for 6 weeks. In recent years, Peter has won the Best Crime Novel Award for The Blackhouse at Bouchercon in the US, Entry Island won the Deanston Crime Book of the Year and Specsavers ITV3 Crime Thriller Book ClubBest Read Award.
Twitter ~ @authorpetermay