Taking some time off from a stalled journalism career, Joanna never expects to be chasing another story in Faro, Portugal. That is exactly what happens when she enrolls in a language course and meets Nathan.

He alerts her to some underground activities that reignite her interest in investigative journalism. Joanna also realizes she has feelings for Nathan, even though she is convinced he is hiding something. His name, she discovers, is a false one.

Joanna’s story is tied to that of an American woman who lived in Portugal decades before, Esta Hartford. The wife of a war correspondent, Esta wrote a novel based on her life in Portugal in the 1940s. Though not widely read, Joanna discovers that the novel, The Alliance, is mostly a true account with some names changed.

To find out what is true and what is not, Joanna and Nathan embark on a dangerous quest to confront Algarve’s shadowy past. They confront criminals with ties to organized crime and shadowy figures from the intelligence community.

Neutral during the second World War, Portugal was a hotbed for espionage. Spies regularly met in hotel lobbies in Lisbon and in smaller cities, e.g. Estoril. Portugal was also a conduit for Nazis escaping capture at the war’s end. In more recent times, the area was the site a much publicized child abduction–the Madeline McCann case.

Lawerenson weaves all of this together in 300 Days of Sun. In the novel, the fairly recent child abductions are related to the pro and anti-Nazi factions that coexisted in Portugal. Nathan may have been an unwitting victim. Though he was adopted in England, he recently discovered that his birth certificate said that he was born in Portugal.

Novels where the past and present are inextricably linked can be fascinating. Joanna finds a kindred spirit when she reads the book The Alliance by Esta Hartford. Though they end up making different choices, Joanna can see many parallels between her own life and Esta’s.

by Chantal W.