Saturday, March 5, 2022

Review: The Torqued Man by Peter Mann

by Peter Mann
Release Date: January 11, 2022
2022 Harper
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063072106
Audiobook: B095PYQV79
Genre: Fiction / Historical / WWII
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.75 / 5 Stars

Berlin--September, 1945. Two manuscripts are found in rubble, each one narrating conflicting versions of the life of an Irish spy during the war.

One of them is the journal of a German military intelligence officer and an anti-Nazi cowed into silence named Adrian de Groot, charting his relationship with his agent, friend, and sometimes lover, an Irishman named Frank Pike. Meanwhile, the other manuscript gives a very different account of the Irishman's doings in the Reich. 

The two manuscripts spiral around each other, leaving only the reader to know the full truth of Pike and De Groot's relationship, their ultimate loyalties, and their efforts to resist the fascist reality in which they are caught.
My Thoughts
The Torqued Man had an interesting concept, which I really liked. Tell the same story from two different perspectives and let the reader try to figure out what was really going on during a time of espionage, manipulations, double crossings, and war. I've always liked the journalistic style of storytelling, which is the approach taken in this book, so I thought it would be interesting to be led around by the nose, so to speak, and try to figure out what was really happening. And while there were a couple of things that did catch me off guard, and I really wanted to fully immerse myself in the story, there was something off about the way it was written that didn't make me feel empathetic towards the characters or allow me to get fully involved in the lives of these people.
First of all, the book was well-written, a mix between historical fiction and political thriller, but it did feel sluggish at times.  I don't usually tend to mind when books move slowly, especially historical fiction, as it gives me a chance to really absorb the atmosphere of the time period and what was happening.  However, some of the sluggish points were on things that I don't think were really necessary to the story, and I will admit I put the book down to read something else for a while before picking it back up again.  The dual POV can be useful or it can create problems in a book, and for me, I think it affected the suspense / tension in the story line; however, the fact the story lines weren't aligned was not an issue and I actually thought that was fascinating. I started realizing quite early on not to take anything literally and understood that every action would have another side of the story that would be quite different. I got to the point where I stopped trusting anything I read and wondering what was really going on.
I really enjoyed Piked as a main character and thought De Groot was quite annoying.  Pike was rough around the edges and could be quite crass, but I found him to be a lot more interesting while Adrian spend his time whining about socialism. This was definitely the author's intention, to give us these two characters, one who spent time in a Spanish prison cell, and the other, a German official, whose job was to oversee Pike, who does not see himself as working for Hitler, but still works for the Nazis in Nazi Germany and has all the comforts that that entails. Nobody could be trusted as you just didn't know if anyone was a spy or what their purpose was in being there.  Unfortunately, I felt like there was so much subterfuge going on that the story got sluggish, and I just didn't empathize with any of the characters towards the end of the story. 

The Torqued Man had an interesting concept, and I liked the dual story line as they overlapped each other so you got both sides of the same story which made you wonder exactly which one was true, or what exactly was going on.  However, these same story lines also took away from the suspense and bogged down the story, plus they made me less empathetic towards the characters.  I had no issue understanding the story, but I do wonder if someone who is not familiar with WWII time lines might struggle with the somewhat out of sync story lines.  I was also disappointed with the ending as it just didn't feel satisfying; I think maybe I wanted more of a confrontation? A good lesson here though: There is always another side to the story.