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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Monday 15 May 2023

Bloody Orkney

 My holiday reading was Ken Lussey's WW2 crime thriller Bloody Orkney. Crime fiction is not my usual genre, but this is set in Orkney during WW2, probably my favourite Scottish island. It was part of my work patch for a few years, and I spent many a happy hour in-between meetings in the archivist's office looking at the naval records.

The story is based around an actual unit called Military Intelligence 11, whose task was safeguarding military security. Our hero, Group Captain Sutherland, heads up a multi-service team which looks at the security of the Orkney bases. There is some love interest in the form of an MI5 secondee.  Most people will be familiar with Scapa Flow, a base for the Home Fleet in both wars. But there were also several RAF, army and naval bases to defend the island. 

I won't spoil the story, which is a complex mix of plots, most of which come together at the end. They involve internal corruption rather than Axis intervention. There is also an interesting sub-plot related to Anthrax poisoning, which takes the team to Gruinard Bay on the west coast of Scotland. This was an actual site for testing chemical weapons, and I recall the island was still out-of-bounds when I first visited the area. It is a beautiful bay, although my Mum was less keen on a paddle when I explained the history! 

The story is well written and keeps the reader engaged throughout. I probably won't read the others in the series, but if you like crime fiction with a historical flavour, then you could do much worse than read this.

This is Scara Brae, one of many fine sites to visit on Orkney.

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