Col. David Fits-Enz’s The Spy on Putney Bridge: A Mystery Novel of Espionage, Murder, and Betrayal in London is a fascinating use of the mixture of family history, wartime spy thriller, and crime novel. The result is a fast moving novel that nonetheless spans decades, and a steadily twisting bit of intrigue that is believable and difficult to assess in equal measure.
A carefully constructed opening includes Lieutenant Nathan Frederick Stetchworth meeting another soldier as he returns to his family home via train. He finds himself reflecting upon his potential future, but his grandmother Charlotte has some problems of the past in mind. She is an unashamed germanophile, in spite of living through two world wars. Her first little bombshell to Lieut. Stetchworth is to explain that the man he thought was his grandfather had in fact been anything but; rather, a young German man named Christian had sired him.
This alone would be shaking for a young man whom thought he knew his place in the world, but for the patriotic injured veteran it is the smallest of the horrifying revelations as to his family history. Indeed over the following nights, and even passing into the days following the death of the grandmother, he and the reader learn of the deep web of betrayal, deceit, and murder in which the family is entrenched.
There is an oddity in the book’s narrative style. Early on it is clear that the grandmother, Charlotte Howard Stetchworth, is telling the story and her grandson listening. Indeed, Nathan’s thoughts on the matter detail the oddity of the story told just before the narrative switches to a far more direct style. Due to this stylistic shift, the strong voice of Charlotte becomes a softer element in later chapters, and Nathan, her grandson, becomes a similar nonentity, which is also bothersome.
A nice little afterword explains many of the inspirations for the novel, and they in and of themselves make for a fascinating little read. There is discussion of individual locations and historical incidents that motivate the various characters.
Overall The Spy on Putney Bridge is a fascinating and entertaining little story of two different World Wars and one family with a string of dark secrets. The nested mysteties and use of limited point of view are clever, fitting of an espionage related mystery. Recommended to those who enjoy family sagas and war mysteries.