A Sunday Times, Observer, Evening Standard and Daily Mail book of the year
'Remarkably accomplished' Observer
'Casts a magical spell' Daily Mail
'Deeply impressive' Evening Standard
A stunning debut crime novel for fans of Robert Harris, Philip Kerr and C.J. Sansom's Dominion.
London, 1952. Dick Bourton is not like the other probationer policemen in Notting Hill. He's older, having fought in Europe and then Korea. And he's no Londoner, being from Cotswold farming stock. Then there's Anna, the exotically beautiful White Russian fiancée he has brought back to these drab streets and empty bombsites. She may as well come from a different planet.
The new copper also has a mind of his own. After an older colleague is shot by a small-time gangster they are chasing in a pea-souper fog, something nags at Bourton's memory. He begins to make connections which his superiors don't want to see, linking a whole series of deaths and the fogs that stop the city in its tracks.
Desperate to prove himself and his theories, Bourton fails to notice the fear which his mysterious bride is doing her best to conceal - and overcome.
Soon both Anna and Bourton are taking dangerous paths into the worst fog London has ever known...
"London had gone. As he stepped through the wicket, a dry smoky chill puffing over the lintel, everything that made the city - skyline, street signs, crowds, scarlet double-deckers - had disappeared, lost in the murk. I can't see the kerb, for God's sake, let alone Barker's across the road. He looked both ways, the chill crawling down his neck . . . Coshing gangs will love this. And our man. But we're on your trail, sunshine. He raised his hat to Marling, locking up behind. Tomorrow we nab you."
Dominick Donald was brought up in Britain and the US before studying at Oxford University. Stints as a soldier, a lecturer, a UN official and an editorial writer, plus a War Studies PhD, led eventually to political risk analysis for a large London firm, which he left in 2016 as its Head of Geopolitics. He has written editorials for The Times and US business magazine Red Herring, and reviews for the Guardian and the TLS. Now a freelance writer and political risk advisor, he is married with three children and lives on the Oxfordshire-Wiltshire border.
An outstanding debut . . . Donald combines historical events and fictional characters to superb effect, in a novel that deserves to win prizes. — The Sunday Times, Crime Book of the Month
The combination of thriller plot with pervasive moral uncertainty reminded me at times of le Carre. Historically fascinating, too. All in all, this is one of the finest debuts I've read for a while. — Andrew Taylor, author of Ashes of London
Remarkably accomplished . . . the most appealing, original protagonist I've read for some time . . . Donald's depiction of the city's thickening gloom is splendidly evocative . . . A very impressive debut' — Alison Flood, Observer
Dominick Donald's portrayal of the difficulties and dangers faced by Londoners is superb . . . Breathe is a hugely impressive debut. — The Times
Dominick Donald is an exceptional writer. His depiction of post-war London is beautifully detailed, as are his descriptions of the lethal fogs that left the city gasping for breath. On top of that he has peopled his nail-biting story with a rich variety of characters, many of them coppers, who might easily have stepped out of a Dickens novel. Gripping to the last page, it's a mystery unlike any other I've read. — Rennie Airth
A brilliant book, an extraordinary mix of fiction and fact so real it will make your skin crawl. The sights, sounds, grit and desperation of postwar London hang over every step into the poisonous mysteries of the fog. Close the windows, pull up the duvet and keep the light on. — Tom Harper
Atmospheric and intriguing — Country & Town House
This subtly woven mixture of fiction and fact, which partly draws on the notorious case of 10 Rillington Place and the serial killer Reg Christie, casts a magical spell, and even includes a moving love story. It is a stunning debut from a former academic, security expert and journalist. You can smell the fog and feel the breath being sucked out of your body as you struggle to understand what is happening in the darkness — Daily Mail
Dominick Donald sustains the tension beautifully over the course of this long book, depicting his smoggy setting so well that your eyes sting while your pulse races. — Sunday Express
Gripping — Guardian
This debut will keep you absorbed for nights on end . . . Dominick Donald combines tangy depiction of ration-era London with a strong historical context, featuring among many vividly realised scenes, a chase through the Underground that will haunt your commute for weeks. — Metro
Dominick Donald's novel is a remarkably convincing re-creation of a London that, although well within living memory, has vanished forever. Rich in detail and dialogue that successfully resurrect the period, it's a thriller that holds the reader's attention — Nick Rennison, BBC History Magazine
Dominick Donald creates a splendidly honest, but wily and perceptive hero in the burly Korean War veteran Dick Bourton, and a resourceful heroine to match him... Donald writes his most thrilling passages in staccato lists of impressions that the narrator Martin Ellis makes rat-a-tat on the ear . . . Compulsive listening — The Times
What makes Donald's story so compelling is the combination of historical events and fictional characters to superb effect in a thriller plot with an aura of pervasive moral uncertainty . . . Breathe is an outstanding debut - one of the finest I've read in a long while. — Crime Review