Friday, 1 April 2016

Fall Of Man In Wilmslow by David Lagerkrantz

Fall of Man in Wilmslow: The Death and Life of Alan Turing
by David Lagercrantz

Publisher: Quercus Books (7 May 2015)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (digital ARC)
June 8, 1954. Alan Turing, the visionary mathematician, is found dead at his home in sleepy Wilmslow, dispatched by a poisoned apple.

Taking the case, Detective Constable Leonard Corell quickly learns Turing is a convicted homosexual. Confident it's a suicide, he is nonetheless confounded by official secrecy over Turing's war record. What is more, Turing's sexuality appears to be causing alarm among the intelligence services - could he have been blackmailed by Soviet spies?

Stumbling across evidence of Turing's genius, and sensing an escape from a narrow life, Corell soon becomes captivated by Turing's brilliant and revolutionary work, and begins to dig deeper.
But in the paranoid, febrile atmosphere of the Cold War, loose cannons cannot be tolerated. As his innocent curiosity fast takes him far out of his depth, Corell realises he has much to learn about the dangers of forbidden knowledge.

What I Thought:
The pace of David Lagercrantz's novel 'Fall of Man in Wilmslow' feels frustratingly slow, so slow in fact that In the beginning I didn't think I could continue if the action didn't ratchet up a notch or two.  After my initial uncertainty and perseverance, I adjusted and appreciated the languid pace, taking in every detail. It was from that point onwards that I loved the book and characters, especially that of Allan Turing as imagined by Lagerkrantz.

As I said before, the pace in this novel is painfully slow and not going to hold the attention or interest of everyone, especially those wanting an action packed, edge of the seat thriller. Fall of Man in Wilmslow sure won't rock their boat. However, I found it to be a deeply rewarding historical, educational, suspenseful, read.  The substantial character development, and Lagerkrantz's astounding ability to simplify complex mathematical concepts and philosophical conversation for the layperson more than compensates for the lack of pace to my mind.  In particular I found the conversation on the 'liars paradox' totally fascinating. I believe I even understood it, at the time of reading !

Fall of Man in Wilmslow is on the surface a detective mystery novel set during the 1940's and 1950's when paranoia, and conspiracy theories were rife. You just couldn't trust those scheming communists, or far worse those immoral homosexuals... always ripe for the Russians to coerce into an uncompromising position and blackmail into divulging our national secrets.

DC Leonard Corell is assigned to the 'open and shut' case of an apparent suicide. That of an 'Alan Turing'.  Corell becomes obsessed and fully immerses himself in his investigation to find out who Alan Turing was and what he did during the war. His fascination with Turing leads him to some unsavoury characters and into dangerous waters, but also along the way he discovers more about himself and his family, and ultimately begins to question his own prejudiced beliefs.

The atmosphere of tension of suspicion, is palpable and I got a real sense of the overpowering hatred and sexual bigotry of the times towards the homosexual community.

On a deeper level it is a fascinating character supposition analysis of an immensely talented genius and how he was treated appallingly even by those who knew what he had achieved during the war. Not only did no one help him, they actively encouraged the accusations, then left him to be destroyed mentally after his treatment of chemical castration for the most heinous crime of being a homosexual.

I found Fall of Man in Wilmslow to be a deeply affecting novel and couldn't help but think what a waste of an exceptionally gifted mind. What advancements may we have delayed in the computing and artificial intelligence fields.  It is beautifully and sensitively written - to my mind it is an absolute must read for anyone wanting an intelligent, thought provoking mystery thriller.

One of my favourites this year.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of Fall of Man in Wilmslow was provided by Quercus Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.

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