Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson

Rudi has always wanted to be a chef and it has taken him far from home, across many of Europe’s now multiple borders. Sometime in our future separatism has spread through the world like a rash. Even buildings fight to become nation states and passing between these countries presents a challenge Central, a group of Couriers, have become expert at meeting. Documents, people, anything you need delivering incognito requires a courier. When Central recruit Rudi his life becomes a series of seemingly unconnected drops and meets until he is given a key to a whole different set of borders.

There is much to like about this novel: the effortless crossing of genre borders; the way the story creeps up on the protagonist in ever tightening circles, new sections often beginning with different characters whose lives turn around the arrival of Rudi; the mesmerising story line that keeps you hooked on unravelling the mystery of this world just beyond our reach. However, despite greedily returning to the book I’m still not sure about where it ends. The book takes an unexpected turn that intrigues and bemuses me. I’m not sure how well it was foreshadowed or where the novel can go from here if it doesn’t get developed in a sequel and I want a novel, even if it is going to be part of a series, to feel whole in itself. I don’t think Europe in Autumn quite does that, but it does stay in the mind and it does capture what a continually fractured Europe might look and feel like. The espionage is cleverly rendered, driving the plot with a kind of old-fashioned noir appeal all the more enticing because of the future setting. If you like a mixture of crime, espionage, sci-fi, alternate realities, you can’t go wrong with Europe in Autumn. Even if you only like one of those things, you should give it a go. Whatever else you might feel about the novel, you can’t deny that Europe in Autumn is an expertly crafted tale.

Next week I’m reading The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim, winner of the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the only prize dedicated to fiction in translation.

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