Fall of Man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz ~Goodreads~
Published by Quercus Books 7th May 2015
Kindle edition 368 pages ~Amazon~
June 8th, 1954. Alan Turing, the visionary mathematician, is found dead at his home in sleepy Wilmslow, dispatched by a poisoned apple.
Taking the case, Detective Constable Leonard Corell quickly learns Turing is a convicted homosexual. Confident it’s a suicide, he is nonetheless confounded by official secrecy over Turing’s war record. What is more, Turing’s sexuality appears to be causing alarm among the intelligence services- could he have been blackmailed by Soviet spies?
Stumbling across evidence of Turing’s genius, and sensing an escape from a narrow life, Corell soon becomes captivated by Turing’s brilliant and revolutionary work, and begins to dig deeper.
But in the paranoid, febrile atmosphere of the Cold War, loose cannons cannot be tolerated. As his innocent curiosity fast takes him far out of his depth, Corell realises he has much to learn about the dangers of forbidden knowledge.
I want to first thank Quercus Books for sending me this English translation through Netgalley, I was beyond excited to be approved to read and review this book. I have been a great admirer of Alan Turing for this past year and finding a fictional novel surrounding the reasons behind his suicide immediately caught my attention.
We meet Leonard Corell a police detective who is put on the case of Alan Turing’s death, he visits Turing’s home in Wilmslow and discovers that there are a fast amount of dangerous chemicals in the property. When a post mortem finds traces of potassium cyanide in Turing’s body it becomes a clear conclusion that his death was an act of suicide. Corell finds an apple on the floor of Turing’s bedroom drenched in the chemical and is reminded of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, where Snow White is too poisoned by an apple. It is said both in this novel and in historical documents that Alan was fond of this film and perhaps found it comforting or like a fairy tale to end his life in this way.
Immediately Corell his fascinated as to why Turing would end his own, he delves into every document he can find concerning Turing and discovers that two years previously he was persecuted for being gay and had been convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to chemical castration.
Corell’s investigation doesn’t stop there, he explores as much of Turing’s world as he could. However he soon realises that Turing wasn’t just any normal mathematician but involved in a secret project for the British government during the war. As Corell meets former colleague’s and friends of Alan he uncovers matters that no one else could ever know, which becomes a risk for Corell.
What this book conveys very well is the paranoia and tension of the beginning of the Cold War, not only this but the personal struggles the main character has with his views on homosexuality as well as the new discoveries and technological developments of the era and how all of these were viewed by the civilians of that time in history.
I found that the story gave interesting interpretations of how development in technology made those wary like for example, during the war “machines” were seen as damaging and a risk to the security of Britain during a time of paranoia and yet despite the doubt surrounding Alan’s abilities he managed to crack the German enigma machine that had a vast impact on the war effort.
How the author dealt with conveying the opposition of homosexuality during this era was very well done. He conveyed the prejudices of those who believed that someone’s sexuality could influence them to be a spy against their own country. I see how the rejection of homosexuals in a society could push those away, though it was said that during the war homosexuals were influenced by Stalin due to him welcoming them into Soviet society that would then lead them to being his spies- which we all know is ridiculous! Although despite my dismissal of this from a “modern mind” its not hard to see that during this tense time it wouldn’t have been hard to put this idea into someone’s head.
I can’t fault this novel, it dealt with difficult topics and brought out the difficulties of accepting change, not just in society but in technology too. Perhaps the one dislike I have of this book would be the length, it seemed drag on longer than I expected with events that didn’t necessarily need to be in it. Otherwise it’s worthy of a four star rating.
Again thank you to Quercus Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this great book!