On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE
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How I discovered this book: It was a submission to Rosie Amber's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.
This is a spy story set in England and Germany during Hitler's rise to power and the first year of the Second World War. John King, a history lecturer, is invited to become an undercover agent, and, despite the realisation of how dangerous and lonely his life will become, he agrees.
What I liked about this book
- The author clearly knows his subject inside out and, I would imagine, has a great interest in it, as opposed to just having done the research required to produce this novel; you can tell the difference. I feel that A P Martin has an innate understanding of the era itself, and the people who lived within it.
- The section before the war, when agent King witnesses the 'gathering storm' of Nazi Germany, is excellent, and SS man Joachim Brandt's witnessing of Dunkirk, from the point of view of a German spy, is outstanding. I loved these two parts.
- I thought the plot was well thought out, generally, and it kept me interested throughout.
- The understated communication between King and his controller, Pym, was most believeable. The characterisation of Pym and Brandt was particularly good, as was that of misguided informant Abigail Stevenson; Brandt's duplicitous relationship with her was executed very well, as was Brandt's developing character, as he grows from patriot to confirmed Nazi. There's a key scene were he slaughters some POWs, which triggers him off; it's so well done.
- The build up to the war, with the growing danger in Germany, the differing attitudes to Hitler, and the many theories about his intentions, was fascinating, and gave such insight into how that time must have been for different people across both countries.
What I was not so sure about
- I found some elements early in the book less than convincing; at the beginning, King is with his friends in Germany in 1933, and everyone speaks in perfectly formed sentences, giving just the right amount of information to the reader; the conversation didn't seem real.
- I wasn't convinced by the romance with Greta; I found their Christmas together in 1938 not a last idyllic, romantic few days before the war, but a mildly interesting account of activities. Greta never came across to me as a living, flesh and blood woman. However, it was no worse than the depiction of women by some well-known writers of this genre, Jeffrey Archer to name but one.
- I would urge Mr Martin to seek out a proofreader who knows how to punctuate ~ there are scores of missing or incorrectly placed commas, and the curious placing of quotations marks around proper nouns (eg, 'Lords Cricket Ground'). I didn't find any spelling mistakes or typos, though.
- The ending. The book just stopped. The main conflict of the plot is resolved, and satisfactorily, but it seemed almost as though the author had forgotten that minor story threads needed resolution, too. I turned the page expecting another chapter, or at least an epilogue, but that was that.