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Ex-finance minister Richards pens spellbinding naval thriller

Literary leanings: former finance minister Bob Richards has written Triangle of Treason, set on the island in the 1940s (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Ministers of Finance are usually better known as number crunchers than wordsmiths.

But Bob Richards, the man in charge of the pursestrings in the last One Bermuda Alliance government, has proved he can turn his hand to novels as well.

Mr Richards, who has already written books on geopolitics and the military, has changed tack with a rollercoaster thriller with a nautical flavour, involving intrigue, murder, Nazi collaboration and a tragic love story at the height of World War Two.

Triangle of Treason centres around an officer and a gentleman, Captain Rodney Grant, a World War One hero who settles in Bermuda to sit out the new conflict.

Captain Grant, traumatised by his experiences at the 1916 Battle of Jutland, the only large-scale encounter between the up-and-coming Imperial German Navy and the all-powerful Royal Navy Grand Fleet, is a figure of mystery to Bermudian society.

It is rumoured he may be a spy in the employ of MI6 – an echo of James Bond, an RN Commander before he joined the shadow world of espionage.

But some, including dashing young United States Navy submarine hunter pilot Harley Harvey, posted to Bermuda, and Bermudian ferry skipper and fisherman Alan “Hooks” Jones, suspect he is indeed a spy – but for the other side.

And Captain Grant hides a dark secret – in line with many of the English establishment at the time, he is anti-Semitic, reinforced by his prewar business contacts in Nazi Germany.

He is recruited as a spy for the Third Reich by one of his business contacts and uses Bermuda, then a crucial centre of Royal Navy operations, as a base to brief the Kriegsmarine and its submarines on ship movements.

Lieutenant Harvey – call sign Swordfish – is approached by Mr Jones, who has seen what he is convinced is Captain Grant rendezvousing with what appears to be a Kriegsmarine U-boat off the island.

But Mr Jones, a black man, has little pull and even less confidence when it comes to accusations against a seeming pillar of white society and his fears are ignored by a hidebound and bungling establishment that can’t believe ’one of us’ could possibly be ’one of them’.

Mr Jones is forced to take his concerns to Lieutenant Harvey and that is where the plot moves to “full ahead both engines”.

Swordfish, who has already fallen in love with Mr Jones’ daughter Becky, but is forced to conceal the relationship under the rigid and racist segregation enforced in Bermuda, takes matters into his own hands and resolves to find the evidence to convict Captain Grant of treason.

Although a work of fiction, the book skilfully weaves historical facts, including the use of the Hamilton Princess as the nerve centre of a mail censorship operation and the USN base in Bermuda, into the tale.

The book also contains historical images of some of the aircraft and ships, naval and civilian, which pepper the plot.

His grasp of naval history is impressive as well and his analysis of the Battle of Jutland, an inconclusive engagement where neither side achieved their aims, hits the target rather with rather more effect than the Royal Navy managed at the time. But that’s another story.

His grasp of the real threat of German submarine warfare, which threatened to starve Britain into submission at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, and which saw massive losses of men, ships and material en route from North America to the UK, is equally accurate.

To say more would be to give away too much of the complexities of the plot.

But rest assured Mr Richards, a keen sailor himself, keeps a steady hand on the wheel as he steers the reader through a plot strewn with reefs.

He ties up all the cables in neat bowline knot in a denouement both satisfying and bittersweet at the same time.

Triangle of Treason, published by White Oak and priced at $29.99, is expected to be available in bookshops soon.

To read about Bob Richards’ previous book on the Bermuda economy, click here.

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Published December 11, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 14, 2020 at 7:52 am)

Ex-finance minister Richards pens spellbinding naval thriller

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