The Herring Barrel unfolds an extraordinary narrative of events that occur during the closing weeks of 1969. Across the UK, country-wide dissatisfaction with the Government in office, an aeronautical industry in decline let down by a disastrous series of political decisions. Threatened cancellation of a successful aviation project brings the situation home to two scientists affected by that impending decision, in trouble at a sensitive time as a result, a Royal Navy carrier near to the end of a major refit principal player in a last ditch attempt to save the project. Following an incident at sea, their research aircraft involved, inconsistent attitudes found at an inquiry into the apparent loss raise doubts, increased by the unknown whereabouts of their head of project. One ally in Whitehall, an important government adviser encourages the scientists to take a journey in search of the facts, for reasons of his own - a journey that leads abroad pursued by accusations in national media, official isolation, the way home severed.
The scientists follow a trail to the Camargue to find themselves embarked on a tortuous route where nothing much can be taken for granted, eventually made aware they will have a part to play in the conclusion of their journey, an intricate web weaved far above their heads that entangles them inescapably alone without assistance to call on, until the trail leads back to sea in pursuit of facts that confirm a conspiracy against Government. Faced by military confrontation, threat of deliberate escalation in the cold war, a nation's future at stake as a French warship heads into a Mediterranean winter gale.
Two journeys, the scientists' head of project's past unknown to them, a journal account of dreadful times across a continent torn apart by the Second War, appears to have no bearing on a situation over which they have no control while questioning loyalties taken for granted. The conclusion to their journey resolves in a meeting with a most prominent person, where they learn the purpose behind what seems to be an ultimate failure. They come to understand what brought them to that meeting and why. The reason significant, a potential consequence the political destiny of their country.
When you've read the account you may ask . . . Is this just a novel?