Nexus by Alison Morton
A thriller, set in an alternative Europe, featuring a ex-military officer determined to protect her family and friends, Nexus is a short but vivid episode in the Roma Nova series by Alison Morton. A standalone novella, this is a brilliant book which maintains a fast pace while keeping in touch with other Roma Nova stories. Aurelia Mitela has served her time in Special Forces, and can disarm a gunman with or without the help of her bodyguards. Her determination to help an old friend and desperate father is second only to her passion to protect her daughter and partner. From the flat lands of Cambridgeshire to the streets of Roma and beyond, this novel never pauses in its revelations of international crime and petty grudges. A terrifically physical book, this again contains a certain vulnerability on Aurelia’s part when not playing by the rules, but is also punctuated by her leaps of intuition when a threat is perceived. Morton’s creation of a state run by women from earliest times gives a sharp focus on the responsibilities that can be assumed when traditional expectations are overturned. While cleverly steeped in a world where Roman gods and army ranks are still common terms, the main characters are set in a 1970s Europe where London still stands but has the legation from a Roman state within its environs. As modern technology begins to emerge even if referred to by different names, this book is cleverly constructed and executed. It is an adventure that I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review.
The book opens with a conversation between Aurelia and her friend Harry Carter. He is consulting her because his troubled son Tom has disappeared once more. As a widower, Harry has tried to bring up his son with every material advantage and ambition, but apart from a brief interlude when Aurela’s companion Miklos managed to gain the young man’s confidence with horses, Tom has seemed angry with his life. Aurelia is soon involved in her own offspring’s problems, as her daughter Marina is being bullied by another schoolchild. Her position is difficult as her military training and experience is unsettling in diplomatic circles, but it is not long before she must remember every survival skill she has ever learnt.
This book is an excellent episode in the Roma Nova series, fitting in between other novels and consistent in the massively able Aurelia from whose point of view this book is told. She is not a superhero, but a survivor in nearly impossible circumstances. This particular book offers an alternative view of Britain which has endured a different history; I was particularly drawn by the description of the Cambridge ara and “Oldmarket” instead of “Newmarket” and other little hints of the nature of a different European history. The importance of family, of love, is still central to this thriller- adventure, and I was instantly drawn back into the world of Aurelia and her state responsibilities. I recommend this book which is part of a series which has made room for fierce female protagonists, and it is as carefully and engagingly written as its predecessors and no doubt successors, of which I hope there will be many!
Having finished my dissertation, we had a great evening with some of the other students on the course, when much food was eaten and a little drink taken (not that much – several drivers present!). Here’s hoping all of our marks reflect the efforts we have put in!