ON THE whole thrillers fall neatly into two categories.

There is the straightforward, globe-trotting blockbuster model, moving at a speed that barely gives the reader pause for breath and says to hell with subtlety and nuance.

And there is the more considered adult thriller in which an ingeniously constructed plot is married to characterisation as richly drawn as in the best literary novels.

The first variety, of course, is in rude health and selling in millions: Dan Brown is its poster boy. But the more grown up second category has fewer exponents.

So it is with pleasure I welcome the addition of Tom Macaulay to its ranks.

The Warning Bell, set in Brittany, stirs wartime secrets involving the wreckage of a high-speed boat, unresolved family conflicts and lethal danger into an invigorating narrative.

A boat has been recovered near the Breton village of St Cyriac and what Iain learns there is to change his life for ever.

Iain Medoc has never been able to persuade his father to recount the events of a night in 1944 when he was part of an RAF air-sea rescue.

At the time the incident led to the disappearance of Iain’s father for months. His return effectively marked the end of their relationship and Iain has carried its bitterness into adult life.

But after the death of his mother Iain learns of a wartime mission involving his father that went disastrously awry. A boat has been recovered near the Breton village of St Cyriac and what Iain learns there is to change his life for ever.

There is an autobiographical element to this novel: the death of the author’s father in 1967 destroyed the chance for the two to share an adult rapport or for Macaulay to find out about the dangerous wartime world in which his father lived.

Macaulay’s father, like Medoc’s, served with the RAF’s air-sea rescue team and never spoke of his wartime service.

Such drawing from real life aside, this is thriller writing of a rare order: old-fashioned in the best sense of the phrase and keeping a perfect balance between the unravelling of a decades-old mystery and a son’s search for closure.

The Warning Bell is a breath of fresh air in an often superficial genre.

Orion, £12.99

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