For the beleaguered German and Russian armies, there is no war beyond the carnage in the city’s grim skeleton, and the terrible winter at their heels. Desperate men need heroes to boost their morale: orders come from the very top for a duel between champion snipers Antonov the Russian, and Meister the German – a contest each must win. For the two marksmen, there is now no war but the race to pin the other in their sights. And no other companion, either, than the stranger whose mind each must read. Dead heroes or living legends? Only time will tell.
Not your usual WW2 story, it begins amid the devastation of the battle for Stalingrad, with the onset of Winter both the Russians and the Germans need a champion, and two young snipers, Antonov and Meister fit the bill.
The story follows their lives and gives a real insight into the ravages of war and the pressure on the young men and how they cope. It’s a poignant story, with an unexpected ending.
I received a copy of this book from Collins Crime Club – Harper Collins via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
It’s 1943 and Hitler’s Germany is a terrifying place to be. But Magda Ritter’s duty is the most dangerous of all…
Assigned to The Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat, she must serve the Reich by becoming the Führer’s ‘Taster’ – a woman who checks his food for poison. Magda can see no way out of this hellish existence until she meets Karl, an SS officer who has formed an underground resistance group within Hitler’s inner circle.
As their forbidden love grows, Magda and Karl see an opportunity to stop the atrocities of the madman leading their country. But in doing so, they risk their lives, their families and, above all, a love unlike either of them have ever known…
Lose yourself in this sweeping, heroic love story fraught with danger.
‘Her Hidden Life’, reads more like a memoir than a novel. Partly due to the iconic historical time but primarily because of the quality of the writing and the painstaking research that underlines it.
The story captures the underlying fear that symbolised Germany in 1943 and the sinister shadow of the Gestapo that ordinary German citizens experienced. Magda’s own family is divided, her mother, a supporter of the regime, though more out of fear of reprisal than anything else. Magda’s father is critical of the government but again only in private. Both her parents want their daughter away from the bombing in Berlin, and so she is shipped off to her paternal uncle and forced to work for Hitler.
Magda’s life as a taster of Hitler’s food is knife-edge, as is living so close to the man and his entourage. The story portrays well the thinly veiled menace, and the sense of needing to do whatever it takes to survive is apparent. Her romance with Karl an SS officer is fraught with danger but surprisingly charming, Magda’s naivety makes her seem younger than she is and shows how courageous some of her actions and decisions are. The atrocities of the Nazi regime are acknowledged and are the catalyst for much of the story, but there is a sense of the horror without overly graphic description.
The historical characters are realistic, but some of the others lack depth, this may be due to the shallowness of Magda’s interactions with others, but a little more characterisation of her fellow tasters and the cook would have been better. Overall it is an absorbing, tense story with a vibrant historical setting making it worthwhile reading.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
When Helen moves into an exciting new neighbourhood, she finds herself in a web of evil with no escape.
Behind the shutters lies a devastating secret…
When Helen moves abroad with her loving husband Gary, she can’t wait to meet her fellow expat teachers from the local International School. But her new start is about to become her worst nightmare…
As soon as the charming family across the way welcome Helen into their home, she begins to suspect that all is not as it seems. Then Gary starts to behave strangely, and a child goes missing, vanished without a trace.
When violence and tragedy strike, cracks appear in the community, and Helen realises her perfect neighbours are capable of almost anything…
So there are obvious parallels with ‘The Stepford Wives’ but only regarding the concept.
‘The Perfect Neighbours’ is a character-driven story, which has detailed imagery and a well-researched setting.The plot is multi-layered with a backstory written in real time, which informs the reader and increases the suspense and dramatic irony.
The first chapter sets the scene for what is to come, Helen is in trouble, but we don’t know why. Chronological chapters trace Helen’s time in the German village, interspersed with a tragic story of a mystery character. The story builds to an unprecedented tragedy, which has dangerous consequences for Helen and this dramatic mid story scene makes reading the slower chapters in the first half of the book worthwhile.
The characters, seen through Helen’s eyes are not likeable. Their outward friendliness is a thin veneer, which barely covers, their lies, deceit and abusive behaviour.
There are lots of twists, and the ending is not what you are led to believe. I did work out parts of the story, but there were still events that surprised me. Tragedy, when it strikes, is graphically written, so not for the squeamish but the violence is necessary for the story to progress. The pacing is slow at times, but again this gives the tragic events maximum impact when they occur.
An exciting thriller, with a strange, chilling quality, which exposes the fragility of the human psyche and its capability for deceit.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse/ Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.