Ben Oliver


The Partisan

19 September 2023

In 1961, deep in the throes of the Cold War, two chess masters from either side of the Iron Curtain meet at a tournament and fall for each other. They get caught up in an international game of spies and lies.

A remarkably well researched spy thriller that flips back and forth between the 60s and the Second World War. It hangs a lot of its plot and character development around the rebels in Lithuania in WWII, which despite sounding fairly obscure makes for some compelling reading.

The characters are pretty well realised, although I always find it hard to buy into spy-thriller romances—they always feel like the author’s fantasy more than anything else.

The final third of the book drops the ball a bit, with Worrall trying to crank up the pace a bit haphazardly. It loses a lot of its edge. The final chapter in particular really misses the mark.

But as a debut effort The Partisan is remarkably good, and it does more than enough to stand above train-station thrillers.

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