Steen Langstrup’s The Informer is about an anti-German resistance group in Second World War occupied Copenhagen. Its members include a thrill-seeking priest who cheats on his wife with numerous women, including fellow resistance fighter and prostitute, Alis K; a cop who somehow managed to escape the fate of transportation to German concentration camps suffered by his fellow policemen; a communist on a quest to become a hero, and a young man who finds a thirst for killing the enemy. As their sabotage efforts become continually aborted due to the enemy’s readiness, they come to understand that an informer lies among them. And so a trap is set …
I bought this book immediately after reading In the Shadow of Sadd, an outstanding piece of Danish noir written by four different authors, including Langstrup. This book doesn’t quite reach its heights, but is still a compelling read. You get inside the heads of each protagonist, in search of the unreliable narrator, nervous that the one you like might turn out to be the rat. You hope the one you don’t is the man – and that he’ll get his comeuppance. All the characters are tragic, in search of something they can’t have. The war gives some of them a chance at something they lacked in peacetime. For others, it’s a horrific disruption of their lives. Whoever you follow, there’s a stickiness to the characters, an accumulation of nervous sweat that sticks to them throughout. They smell each other’s fears and desires, and use them against each other. BB, the priest, is the most interesting character. He seeks danger through violence and sexual encounters, though he would kill his wife if she cheated on him. He trusts in his fellow resistance fighters, even as the evidence against them stacks and makes them totter.
The novel isn’t without problems. BB isn’t believable as a priest, and not much is provided about how he took to such a role. The communist Borge’s unrequited homosexual love isn’t developed enough to believe in his search for the heroic, and I would have liked the book to have gone on longer.
However, the latter criticism just shows how much I enjoyed the book. It’s a definite page-turner. And there is a sequel – Codename: Panzer. I’ll get involved.
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