I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for Nucleus by Rory Clements today. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to read the book so instead of my review I am sharing an excerpt. Grab a cuppa and enjoy.
The eve of war: a secret so deadly, nothing and no one is safe
June 1939. England is partying like there is no tomorrow, gas masks at the ready. In Cambridge the May Balls are played out with a frantic intensity – but the good times won’t last… In Europe, the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, and in Germany the persecution of the Jews is now so widespread that desperate Jewish parents send their children to safety in Britain aboard the Kindertransport. Closer to home, the IRA’s S-Plan bombing campaign has resulted in more than 100 terrorist outrages around England.
But perhaps the most far-reaching event of all goes largely unreported: in Germany, Otto Hahn has produced the first man-made fission and an atomic device is now a very real possibility. The Nazis set up the Uranverein group of physicists: its task is to build a superbomb. The German High Command is aware that British and US scientists are working on similar line. Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory is where the atom was split in 1932. Might the Cambridge men now win the race for a nuclear bomb? Hitler’s generals need to be sure they know all the Cavendish’s secrets. Only then will it be safe for Germany to wage war.
When one of the Cavendish’s finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is once more drawn into an intrigue from which there seems no escape. In a conspiracy that stretches from Cambridge to Berlin and from Washington DC to the west coast of Ireland, he faces deadly forces that threaten the fate of the world.
The Cavendish, in the heart of Cambridge, was where men had first split the atom. The lab had long been at the very heart of experimental particle physics and Geoff Lancing was one of its leading lights.
Wilde studied Flood. What he saw was a career man who hadn’t quite made it to the top, but still managed to wield influence. Perhaps he had spent too long on campus, not enough time on the parade ground.
‘We need to know what’s going on there,’ Flood continued. ‘The world of atomic physics is a small place. There are questions to which we would like answers. For instance, do Britain’s top men believe this superbomb is possible? How difficult is it to make? Who are the real brains – the leaders in the field? We’d like to hear what you can find out. And we’d like to hear it in layman’s terms. Simple as that.’
‘Then I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.’
‘Come on, Wilde,’ Flood said. ‘We know your background. You may not call yourself a spy, you may not be part of any agency, but goddamn it, professor, you’re in the thick of it already! You take briefings from Vanderberg at the US embassy, you watch your contemporaries like a bird of prey . . .’
‘Take briefings from Jim Vanderberg? He’s a friend, that’s all, an old college friend. We just talk, shoot the breeze like friends do.’
Flood held up a defensive hand and grinned. ‘No one’s accusing you of anything, professor. You do good work. We’ve got a pretty good idea what you did at the back end of ’36. You’re just the sort of guy we need.’
Did Flood really know Wilde’s role in those events? The foiling of the conspiracy to prevent the abdication of Edward VIII had been a closely guarded secret. Wilde shrugged. ‘I suppose I should be flattered.’
Roosevelt clapped his hands. ‘Good man. We don’t want to be caught off guard. If anyone looks like they’re going to get a superbomb, I want to know about it.’ He glanced at his watch and Wilde began to rise, as did Colonel Flood. The interview was over. Ten short minutes in which they had covered the likelihood of war, the possibility of an atomic superbomb and the pleasures of jazz. All that and good White House coffee. The President put the dying butt of his second cigarette in the ashtray groove, then leant across and shook Wilde’s hand warmly. ‘Good to meet you, professor. Keep in touch. I need a clear, unbiased voice over there in the dark days that lie ahead of us. Missy LeHand is my gatekeeper and she will tell you exactly how to contact me. I’d value your view over those of a dozen diplomats. Just keep everything short and to the point. On the science matter, communicate with Dexter.’
‘Certainly, Mr President.’
‘And perhaps you’d send me a signed copy of your new book.’
‘It would be my pleasure, sir. I think you’ll find that Sir Robert Cecil was every bit as ruthless in his own way as Walsingham.’
‘Power politics! Nothing changes down the ages.’
Flood walked towards the door. ‘I’ll show the professor out, Mr President.’
‘Thank you, Dexter.’
Published on 25 January 2018 by Bonnier Zaffre, you can grab a copy HERE.
My thanks go to Rory Clements and Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for allowing me to share an excerpt.