In 1482 Mary, the last Duchess of Burgundy, lies on her deathbed in a castle in Flanders. She is only 24. In her final moments she makes a wish that, 500 years later, will threaten the lives of a boy and a girl living in Brussels.
The Master’s Book is the story of Sean, an Irish teenager, just arrived in Brussels to a house that is also a crime scene. Together with Stephanie, his classmate, he finds an illuminated manuscript, only for it to be stolen almost at
Where did this manuscript come from? Who was it originally made for? Is there a connection with the beautiful tomb Sean has seen in Bruges? Above all, why does someone want this book so badly that they are prepared to kill for it?
Part thriller and part paper-chase, this book is aimed at boys and girls of twelve and over.
The true woman behind movies and books
The true woman behind movies and books
by Philip Coleman
On June 15 1952, Denis Muldowney, a steward on the ocean liner Winchester Castle, spotted Krystyna Skarbek, alias Christine Granville, on the stairs of the Shelbourne Hotel, Earls Court, London, and stabbed her to death. A schizophrenic, Muldowney imagined himself in love with Krystyna, who had also worked as a steward on that ship, but she had rejected his advances. Thus ended the short life of one of the most glamorous – yet, perhaps, also one of the most troubled – spies in recent history.
Born in 1915, she was the second child of a Polish count and a Jewish mother. After a convent education, she competed successfully in the Miss Poland contest at the age of 17. Through all her life, it would be her haunting beauty, as well as her taste for adventure, and her need to feel loved, that would be the defining marks of her character.
Her father used his ample dowry to furnish a lavish lifestyle that he couldn’t otherwise afford. His bad financial management caught up with him in the 1920s, forcing the family to give up their family estate and move to Warsaw. After his death, Krystyna was forced to take a job in a Fiat dealership but soon had to give this up due to the effects of the car fumes. At first she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Using compensation money received from her employer, she began to follow medical advice, which fitted with her own inclinations, by spending as much time as possible out of doors, hiking and skiing.
A marriage with businessman Karol Getlich ended almost as soon as it had begun. She went on to marry Jerzy Giżycki, whom she met when he rescued her from a skiing accident in Zakopane. Soon afterwards they moved to Ethiopia, where he took up the post of Consul general for Poland.
When the her native country was invaded by Germany in 1939, sparking the outbreak of World War II in Europe, the couple went to Britain, where Krystyna tried to persuade the British authorities that she could be of use in the war effort. After some reluctance on their part she was recruited into the Secret Intelligence Service. She went to Hungary, from where, she made the dangerous winter crossing over the mountains into Poland with the help of Olympic skier Jan Marusarz (a crossing she subsequently made another seven times). On her arrival she tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade her mother to leave; Stefania Skarbek died subequequently in a Nazi prison. Krystyna, meanwhile, set up a network of Polish couriers to carry intelligence to Budapest. While inHungary, she met a Polish officer named Andrzej Kowerski, whom she had met once as a child, and who was also now operating as a secret agent under the false name of Andrew Kennedy, helping to get Polish military personnel out of the country. Skarbek’s ability to get out of a tight situation saved their lives when, in 1941, they were arrested by the Gestapo. She managed to persuade them to let her go by convincing them she had tuberculosis, a deception she achieved by biting on her tongue until it bled. They subsequently escaped, with the help of the British Ambassador toHungary, finally arriving in Cairo.
At first the ease of her escape initially provoked suspicion. Offended by this, her husband, Gizycki, ended his career as an agent and, when Krystyna told him that she and Kowerski were now lovers, he left for Canada. Krystyna took on the name Christine Granville but did not play a significant role until 1944. Her exceptional beauty made her superiors consider her unsuitable for a desk job, where she would be working with men.
With the Allied invasion of France imminent, and having been trained in the use of weapons and radio, she was parachuted into south-eastern France in July 1944, under the alias Pauline Armand, where she played a role in uniting French and Italian resistance fighters in the Alps, as well as encouraging Poles conscripted into the German army to defect. On one famous occasion she persuaded a German Captain to release two fellow agents by posing as General Montgomery’s niece and offering him a substantial bribe. This exploit greatly enhanced her reputation, earning her the George Medal. It was only when she had escaped that she realised how big a risk she had taken, remarking that “they might have shot me as well”. Her exploits in France subsequently gained her an OBE (Order of the British Empire) and the French Croix de Guerre.
She was buried in the Catholic cemetery at Kensal Green, London, where Kowerski’s ashes were also interred after his death in 1988. Muldowney was hanged for his crime in September 1952.
This beautiful, enigmatic and haunted woman has been the subject of several books, most recentlyThe Spy who Loved: he Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville, Britain's First Special Agent of World War II (2012) , by Clare Mulley. She was also the inspiration for two of Ian Fleming’s most glamorous women of action in the Bond novels: Vesper Lynd (Casino Royale) and Tatiana Romanova (From Russia, with Love).
About the author:
Philip Coleman has worked as a biologist for most of his life—in Ireland, Belgium and now in Switzerland. Having been an avid reader all his life, he took up writing only in 2006. This is his first published novel. He drew his inspiration for the story from the period he spent working for the EU in Brussels. He has a grown-up son and daughter (who were roughly the same ages as Sean and Maeve during the time in Brussels but otherwise aren’t a bit like them at all!). He now lives in France.
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