Author – Tony Schumacher
Published – 2015
Genre – Alternative history / thriller
I had been intrigued by the premise of this book and when I saw the glowing review from Kate (stay here with my review for now!) I swiftly moved it to the top of the TBR pile.
The place is London, the year is 1946, and the Nazis are in charge as Germany has been victorious in the war. With little explanation of the circumstances that led to the rather unexpected turn of events the reader is introduced to detective John Rossett and Major Koehler of the SS. There are obviously some loose ends being tied up from the debut (The Darkest Hour) which preceded this book and it quickly becomes clear that there is some animosity between the two characters. We learn that Koehler is disillusioned with the situation in London and has been hoping to return to Germany and to his family but the powers that be aren’t so amenable to the suggestion. Rossett is also disillusioned, he is more of the typical damaged character but he’s decided to make amends for some of the abhorrent acts he has been involved in. Whilst he would like to return to the police force his work with the Nazis has made him unpopular.
The one thing the two men are certain about, however, is that they intend to go their separate ways. Their plans are thwarted when Koehler’s wife and young daughter, who are on a visit to London from Berlin, are caught up in a kidnapping. The kidnappers objective is to use the hostages to demand access to a jewish scientist working in Cambridge. As Koehler is occupied in dealing with the investigation into his wife’s disappearance he has to (reluctantly) rely on Rossett to meet the demands of the kidnappers.
One of the things I enjoyed about this book was how much action there was – as well as the two men making their own efforts to thwart the kidnappers we also have Koehler’s daughter making her own attempts to escape. I really got swept along with these scenes but there are some pretty tense moments to give a change of pace. I liked the freedom that the alternate reality gave the author and as someone who read a lot of fiction set in the First and Second World Wars it was interesting to see the action taking place on English soil.
The political situation and the circumstances that led to the Nazi’s success are dealt with in an understated way which I felt was a bit of a tease – I wanted to know more about how they had won the war and the turning point that led to to this reality. There are some interesting interpretations of how post-war relationships might have developed in the wake of a German victory.
The atmosphere is skilfully written and it’s easy to picture the dark, depressing times and the deprivation and fear of the people living under Nazi occupation in a miserable British winter. Koehler and Rossett are great characters with an unusual relationship and their story reflects the conflicts of people put in extraordinary circumstances. A chilling, thrilling read.
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.