The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Summary:

The Marriage Portrait is a dazzling evocation of the Italian Renaissance in all its beauty and brutality.

Winter, 1561. Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara, is taken on an unexpected visit to a country villa by her husband, Alfonso. As they sit down to dinner it occurs to Lucrezia that Alfonso has a sinister purpose in bringing her here. He intends to kill her.

Lucrezia is sixteen years old, and has led a sheltered life locked away inside Florence’s grandest palazzo. Here, in this remote villa, she is entirely at the mercy of her increasingly erratic husband.

What is Lucrezia to do with this sudden knowledge? What chance does she have against Alfonso, ruler of a province, and a trained soldier? How can she ensure her survival.

The Marriage Portrait is an unforgettable reimagining of the life of a young woman whose proximity to power places her in mortal danger.

My Review:

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell was my book of the year for 2020 and now recently out in hardback is the new book from a writer I admire greatly. The Marriage Portrait (Tinder Press) is just as unforgettable and will undoubtedly be in the running for my book of the year.

The Marriage Portrait is set during the Italian Renaissance. The year is 1561 and it is the reimagining of the story of a young woman, 16-year-old Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara. Lucrezia is now forced into a marriage to a man she has not met. It was to be her older sister Maria who was to have wed Alfonso d’Este the soon to be Duke of Ferrara but after her sister died Lucrezia was to take her place. Lucrezia though a bit more outgoing than her sister and had little interests in dressing up and much preferred being in nature and so marriage was a shock to her. It was her father Cosimo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany who only wanted the very best marriages for his daughters and so it was that Lucrezia was to become the wife of Alfonso.

Very soon after the wedding Lucrezia is whisked away to a country villa or so it seems and something unusual in the fact there is none of the usual entourage that would accompany Alfonso let alone anyone to attend to Lucrezia. Something sinister is happening within the walls of villa. Alfonso is not the loving husband they believed he would be but more controlling and it soon apparent to the young Lucrezia that court life is constrained and not the life she once knew. But worse much worse is to follow. She is now at the mercy of Alfonso. She is there for one reason to make sure there is an heir to Alfonso’s dynasty. This has not happened and now lives in fear of her ever-increasing erratic husband.

I am not going to give anything away as that will spoil the book for anyone who is yet to read The Marriage Portrait but all I will say is that this is just another outstanding book by Maggie O’Farrell. A book you can easily loose a weekend to and never have any regrets. It is evocative and compelling and so beautifully written. For an historical piece of writing Maggie O’Farrell has yet again raised the bar so high you must wonder how she can follow this.

448 Pages.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell Published by Tinder Press on 30 August 2022 and is now in hardback and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson

Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson

Summary:

[A] thriller from [an] ex-doctor about a spate of mysterious deaths in a beleaguered hospital. Insightful on addiction and doctors’ lives, it reads almost like a comic medical memoir – with murder thrown in ’The Bookseller

The year is 1999. Returning to practice after a suspension for stealing opioids, a young Scottish doctor takes the only job he can find: a post as a senior house officer in the struggling east London hospital of St Luke’s.

Amid the maelstrom of sick patients, over-worked staff and underfunded wards a darker secret soon declares itself: too many patients are dying.

Which of the medical professionals our protagonist has encountered is behind the murders? And can our unnamed narrator’s version of the events be trusted?

My Review:

The is one mysterious aspect of this novel that you pick up very quickly, there is a narrator, but you do not know who the narrator is. This is what I really liked about Sometimes People Die (The Borough Press) by Simon Stephenson this just adds to the mystery. It is set in the year 1999 in a struggling London Hospital this young Scottish doctor takes on a role that soon becomes something more than just a doctor.

How did this young Scottish doctor end up working at this London hospital, for this you have to back further as while he was working previously in Scotland, he came very close to losing everything he worked so hard for including he medical licence which would have meant that his career would have been over, he was found to be stealing drugs due to his ongoing opioid addiction. Now he is working with overworked and underpaid staff at this London Hospital. But there is something going on at this hospital, people are dying, too many people are dying.

Throughout the story the narrator talks to us about life on the wards the long and exhausting days that never seem to end and days that merge into one, the crash calls and constant beeps, but something keeps occurring and that is among of people that seem to be dying on the wards, clearly something sinister is going on, could there really be a killer stalking the patients, someone who could be a nurse or a doctor clearly taking lives? Our narrator will soon become a suspect when his own past is called into question, but somewhere in the hospital there is a killer. He must find who is responsible and quick.

I have to say that I really enjoyed how Simon Stephenson set out his novel as Simon is a trained doctor and worked in both London and Scotland, so his medical background really helps set the scene of day-to-day life on the wards of St Luke’ Hospital. At times there is humour that he brings to the story, within the story our doctor who is out to find the killer will also recount some of the famous cases of medical related murders from the years past which really adds to the story. It is both compelling and at the same time an addictive read. But what about the ending, well that is something you will have to discover for yourself.

368 Pages.

My thanks to Sophia Saghir (Midas PR) and The Borough Press for the review Copy of by Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson. Published on 1st September 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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The Last Girl to Die by Helen Fields

The Last Girl to Die by Helen Fields

Summary:

In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.

Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.

The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?

My Review:

What is it about a murder mystery set on a Scottish Island? Well, here is one that I literally could not put down. The Last Girl to Die (Avon Books) by Helen Fields. Is one of those books that sets the scene very quickly and it never lets up until you turn the last page. Helen Fields is a former criminal law barrister so who else could really write such a gripping crime novel.

Set on the Isle of Mull, an American family have made the island their new home. But something goes horribly wrong when their 16-year-old daughter goes missing, and the days pass and the police have no clues as to what has happened to Adriana. The days now pass, and they begin to think that the local police on the Isle of Mull do not seem to be taking the case very seriously. The parents of Adriana now call in a Canadian private investigator who has a track record in finding missing teenagers. Sadie Levesque arrives on Mull and starts to look for clues as to what has happened to Adriana. It is not long before Sadie comes face to face with hostility from some of the local police officers investigating the case.

Adriana has now been missing for around eleven days and Sadie now finds her body, but something very creepy and mysterious about how she is found. She is wearing a crown made of seaweed but that is not all, Sadie has not seen anything like this before, but she will soon come face to face with another crown made of seaweed. But who is responsible for the murder of Adriana and what really lies behind her killing. There are too many loose ends on Mull and that goes for the family as well. Are they hiding something about their daughter? And why are some of the police and locals against her digging too deeply into the case. Someone clearly means Sadie harm if she digs too deeply.

It is not long before another girl goes missing and her body is found in similar circumstances, is there a connection between the two teenage girls? Adriana has a twin brother and there is a sense of unease here from the start.

What we have in this compelling crime novel is the islands mysterious past and its legends, and it is not until Sadie herself sees one of these ‘gatherings’ that she begins to understand, but there is danger here.

I really enjoyed the setting and how Helen Fields created a whole cast of characters that made the story so gripping. A story of secrets and but also of the past. It will keep you guessing until the very end.

384 Pages.

My thanks to Olivia Collier (Midas PR) and Avon Books for the review Copy of The Last Girl to Die by Helen Fields. Published on 1st September 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson – Translated by David Warriner.

The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson

Translated by David Warriner

Summary:

1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.

1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.

2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.

Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…

My Review:

Firstly, I have really enjoyed all of Johana Gustawsson’s novels to-date and I am not at all sure how to begin with my review. Could this be Johana’s best yet? The Bleeding (Orenda Books) and superbly translated as ever by David Warriner is not out until 15 September so just a few more days to wait. The first thing that strikes you is the fabulous cover design. But the storyline is just a stunning complex novel that will fit into the horror come gothic thriller. Now I don’t do horror I stopped reading those back in the 1980’s but don’t be put off by this. This will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat all the way through.

Now here is a novel not just set-in two-time setting but three. It is following the story of three women one for each time setting. The time settings are 1899, 1949 and 2002, and the women are Lucienne, Lina, and Maxine. All the women’s stories are linked and none of their stories are good. Shocking in fact and here is the basis of crux of the storyline. Be prepared for a quite a reading journey that only Johan Gustawsson can take you on.

Maxine Grant is a detective and is grieving the loss of her husband who died suddenly and now she must pull all of her own resources together as she has two young children to care for, but she must now get back to work and there is a murder to solve. But what has Pauline the wife of victim got to do with the case? But what is to follow will take Maxine back in time to another tragedy and then to 1949. But how and what does this have to do with the current case that Maxine Grant is now trying to solve. There is something so incredibly spellbinding in the way the Johan has put together a who cast for The Bleeding and the setting is brilliant as is the way she pulls the whole storyline together.

Do not be put off by the multiple time settings as I found the story was a joy to follow at times there are hints of the dark, gothic, and creepy that find its way into the novel but that just adds to the suspense. I found the storyline to be chilling but outstanding and one of my books of 2022. Not to be missed.

300 Pages.

My thanks to Karen Sullivan for the review Copy of The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson. Published on 15 September 2022 and is now available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman by Elizabeth Train-Brown

Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman by Elizabeth Train-Brown

Summary:

As recounted by the Roman poet Ovid, a young nymph, Salmacis, one day spied Hermaphroditus bathing; consumed with passion, she entered the water and, begging the gods to allow them to stay together, the two became one – part man, part woman. An Eclectic Pagan, for Elizabeth Ovid’s fables are more than fiction, and form a framework for exploring identity. Drawing on the rich mythological history associated with the tale of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, and re-examining the tale through the lens of metaphor, Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman is a stirringly relatable and powerful exploration of gender, love and identity. this is my lake salmacis, and i am the wild nymph with a hollow in her belly and nothing between her legs

My Review:

My love of poetry goes back to when I was very young, and I would in the library surrounded by poetry books. Where I got this from remains a mystery. From the classics to something more modern and just recently arrived is Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman (Renard Press). The debut poetry collection by Elizabeth Train-Brown. A dazzling new writer of poetry and this is her debut collection. The first thing that strikes you is the origami Swan on the cover, then you realise there are no capitals used on the cover. Step inside and this is exactly how it is through this small but outstanding collection.

It is pretty evident that Elizabeth Train-Brown has just let her imagination and pen run with words as she explores all things gender but your own identity. She holds nothing back in her poetry it is tantalising and unique. I just really enjoyed the way she plays with her words exploring her very being.

Ask me to choose one of the poems and I would have to say it would be ‘we all watch the same gods’ on page 45. I will let you read the poem for yourself and take in the words.

What I enjoy about poetry is that it can make you think about what you have read after you have finished reading and discuss the meanings of what the poetry is trying to tell us. Here in Salmacis, Elizabeth Train-Brown is doing just that, she wants us to think about just who we are. I am already looking forward to what comes next.

64 Pages.

My thanks to Renard Press  for the review Copy of Salmacis: Becoming Not Quite a Woman by Elizabeth Train-Brown Published on 31 August 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Summary:

And then there is a scream. Ragged and terrified. A beat of silence even after it stops, until we all seem to realise that the Reading Room Rules no longer apply.’

Hannah Tigone, bestselling Australian crime author, is crafting a new novel that begins in the Boston Public Library: four strangers; Winifred, Cain, Marigold and Whit are sitting at the same table when a bloodcurdling scream breaks the silence. A woman has been murdered. They are all suspects, and, as it turns out, each character has their own secrets and motivations – and one of them is a murderer.

While crafting this new thriller, Hannah shares each chapter with her biggest fan and aspirational novelist, Leo. But Leo seems to know a lot about violence, motive, and how exactly to kill someone. Perhaps he is not all that he seems…

The Woman in the Library is an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship – and shows that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

My Review:

This is one book that could so easily slip under the radar, but I have to say I loved it. Read in two sittings. The Woman un the Library (Ultimo Press) by award-winning author Sulari Gentill is a wonderful novel that is compelling and sharp and it is unique and extremely clever. Once you have started reading it’s addictive approach and storyline together with great characters means you won’t want to stop read.

Inside this thriller there is another story so you will need to keep your wits about to keep up but that is just another twist. In the Boston Public library four people are busy doing their own research when there is a scream. So now there is a murder in the library. But who and why and who committed the murder?

The four are now kept in the reading room of the Boston Public Library while a search goes on around them to find the killer. This is when the four strike up an unlikely friendship and there is one called Freddie who also is the narrator of this novel, she has quietly been busy giving names to the other three while they were working. This seems to inspire Winifred to start writing her book and at the same time they all suspects in the crime of a murder in the library. One by one they are starting to talk about themselves and sometimes you just cannot help revealing too much about your past even if you intended not to. We all have secrets some are best kept locked away.

Meanwhile there is a murder to solved. Could one of them be the killer and could they strike again? And so, we come to the other story Dear Hannah… are the email exchanges between a successful writer Hannah Tigone and her biggest fan called Leo who is trying to get an agent and a book out there. Each of the emails at added at the end of each chapter which are all part of building the thriller and makes the story so compelling. Just where is this heading. Well you will have to read for yourself but the ending caught me completely by surprise and that is why The Woman in the Library is such a clever murder mystery and one I am more than happy to recommend.

272 Pages.

My thanks to Laura Creyke (Mark Hutchinson Management) for the review Copy of The Woman in the library by Sulari Gentill and is Published on 15 September    2022 and is now available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

The Deal Goes Down by Larry Beinhart

The Deal Goes Down by Larry Beinhart

Summary:

Ex-private eye Tony Casella lives in the Catskill mountains, southern New York, a lonely old tough guy whose body can no longer do what it once did. His wife and son are dead; his daughter barely talks to him; his bank is threatening to repossess his house. But a chance encounter with a rich young woman on a train changes everything. He is hired to kill her superrich, Jeffrey Epstein-ish husband. That job leads to others and he joins a small start-up whose mission is to save women from abusive marriages – and make a tidy profit to boot. Tony’s problems seem to be over, but are they? An old, angry associate is determined to get his cut of Tony’s earnings, murky government agents start to tail him, and when he s sent to the Austrian alps to kill a Russian oligarch and rescue his American wife, all hells breaks loose. Packed with action The Deal Goes Down is an unforgettable portrait of a Lion in Winter who still has a few tricks up his sleeve, from a writer garlanded with awards and critical acclaim.

My Review:

After a 30-year hiatus crime writer Larry Beinhart brings back ex-private eye Tony Castella in The Deal Goes Down (Melville House) which is published this month. Life really has been tough for this tough old private eye, on top of everything that life has thrown at him, now the banks are closing in on him and threatening to take his home from him. Just how low can life get. But then a chance encounter could turn things around for. Or does it in the end?

Tony Castella is now 70 years-of-age, and is on a train journey musing over how life has turned against him, and wondering what he can do to get out of the financial crisis he is in. No-one not even his daughter. But on that train is a wealthy woman who knows he was once a private detective who got results even if they were in a questionable way. She has a $100,000 proposal for Castella, she wants him to kill her husband. But why, it turns that he is an abusive husband who has been more than just carrying on behind her back. She wants him dead. Stone cold dead.

But this job with its lucrative reward soon gets out and his former partner is looking for a cut of the reward. So it goes that one good case turns into another case but this one has serious risks attached for this ageing private eye, now he is hired to rescue the wife and son that have been taken from a very wealthy Russian, but this is where things hairy in more ways than one. Could Tony Castella have taken on one case too many, these Russian’s are armed to the teeth and won’t go quietly. Bullets are flying and so are the bodies.

One thing I will say is this is a romping good thriller from a great crime writer who can spin a really good story with some humour added. This has it all, great characters.

288 Pages.

My thanks to  Nikki Griffiths (Melville House Publishing) for the review Copy of  The Deal Goes Down by Larry Beinhart Published on 11th August 2022 and is now to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

Codename: Madeleine by Barnaby Jameson

Codenaame: Madeleine by Barnaby Jameseson

Summary:

A Mystic’s daughter flees Moscow on the eve of the Great War.
A French soldier lies wounded on the Western Front.
A German officer veers between loyalty and integrity.
An English courtesan reclines on a sea of books.

Each will make a journey that changes history.

The constellations will force the Mystic’s daughter to make an impossible choice. To remain at her harp as the shadow of war looms again – or join the top-secret Special Operations Executive (SOE). Babouli to her Sufi father, ‘Madeleine’ to the Gestapo, a lone mission to Occupied Paris promises to be the most hazardous of World War Two.

Inspired by real events, CODENAME: MADELEINE is the most unexpected spy story ever told. It teems with tigers, zeppelins, elephants, U-boats, angels, assassins, chessmen, cyanide, beetles, butterflies and Rumi. Revolving between Paris, London, Prague, India and Latin America, CODENAME: MADELEINE is a kaleidoscope of love, war, music, betrayal, poetry and resistance.

My Review:

Throughout my life I have read so many WWII spy stories, both true and also fictional but I have been completely blown away by the debut Codename: Madeleine (Whitefox Publishing) by Barnaby Jameson which is based on the true story of Noor Inayat Khan a remarkable brave woman who became the first woman SOE agent to be dropped into occupied France during WWII.

What Barnaby Jameson has written is a deeply moving and compelling accounts of one of the most celebrated heroines of the last war. She was posthumously awarded both the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre in 1949. The story though begins much further back and her father Inayat Khan who was to become a celebrated concert musician and Inayat travels meets Ora and their own journey begins. On New Years Day 1914, Noor was born in Moscow and so her story begins but first they now must leave Russia and head for London as WWI breaks out as Inayat was a pacifist as his religion dictated.

As time went on Noor would go on to study music and play the harp. But now Europe was to be engulfed by war again as WWII breaks out and the family flees Paris and heads back to London where Noor goes on to join the WAAF and it is here she learns how to become a radio operator. But it is not long that she wants more and in 1941 she is recruited into the Special Operations Executive. (SOE). The story now moves to 1943 and Noor is parachuted into France, and this is where the story really becomes compelling and heartbreaking.

I don’t want to go on from here as it is a story, I would completely recommend to anyone. There are many characters in the story based on Noor’s life here in the book including those she trained with at the SOE as well as her family members. One thing I will say is that the bravery shown by Noor and many more who joined the SOE and sent to France is something that you cannot begin to imagine, the fear as the Gestapo were always watching and listening and you feared the net was about to close at any moment.

In 2019 a blue plaque was announced at her home in Bloomsbury, London, the address she left as she headed for France on her final fatal mission. The plaque was unveiled on 28th August 2020.

At just under 500 pages this is not a short story, but this is 500 pages that goes by so quickly. Codename: Madeleine by Barnaby Jameson is highly recommended.

480 Pages.

My thanks to Sofia Saghir (Midas PR) and Whitefox Publishing for the review Copy of Codename: Madeleine by Barnaby Jameson Published on 28th July    2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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#BookReview Operation Moonlight by Louise Morrish

Operation Moonlight by Louise Morrish

Summary:

1944: Newly recruited SOE agent Elisabeth Shepherd is faced with an impossible mission: to parachute behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France and monitor the new long-range missiles the Germans are working on.

Her only advice? Trust absolutely no one. With danger lurking at every turn, one wrong move for Elisabeth could spell instant death.

2018: Betty is about to celebrate her 100th birthday. With her carer Tali at her side, she receives an invite from the Century Society to reminisce on the past.

Remembering a life shrouded in secrecy and danger, Betty remains tight-lipped. But when Tali finds a box filled with maps, letters and a gun hidden in Betty’s cellar, it becomes clear that Betty’s secrets are about to be uncovered . . .

Nostalgic, heart-pumping and truly page-turning, OPERATION MOONLIGHT is both a gripping read and a novel that makes you think about a generation of women and men who truly knew what it meant to survive.

My Review:

I love nothing more than curling up with a fabulous historical fiction novel and if it is set in WWII more the better, then recently a copy of Operation Moonlight (Century Books) by Louise Morrish landed on my doormat and I was swept away in what is a beautifully written novel which is set in both the present day and 1944.

The year is 2018 and Betty is going to be celebrating her 100th birthday and it is her carer Tali who is there helping her ready to celebrate, but it is an invitation that arrives from the Centenarians Club that could well bring back memories from her wartime past that was shrouded in mystery. But it is when her carer finds an old suitcase than contains her past it all comes back to Betty when she would rather stay quiet.

The year is 1944 and the allies are preparing for D-Day and the hope of the free world resting on the soldiers about land on the shores of Normandy. Meanwhile Elizabeth Shepherd who is fluent in French has been recruited and trained by the SOE has been given a dangerous mission to be parachuted into  Nazi-occupied France to seek and report back on the long range missiles that the Germans are about to unleash that will cause death and destruction without being tracked.

So, what does Betty do? Does she go to the Centenarians Club to celebrate her birthday and everything that will entail? Can Tali persuade her to go and what of the contents of the suitcase? The memories are flooding back for Betty when she has been trying to forget the past and her role in WWII.

Operation Moonlight is a wonderful book, it is nostalgic and heartwarming but also gripping when we are taken back to 1944 and the night Elizabeth Shepherd was parachuted behind enemy lines for the first time, knowing that is she is caught she will almost certainly never see home again.

Louise Morrish writes beautifully and has crafted her story so well and the time frames come together well in what is a compelling novel of incredible bravery.

448 Pages.

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My thanks to Isabelle Ralphs (Publicity Manager) and Century Books UK for the review Copy of Operation Moonlight by Louise Morrish Published on 21st July 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

#BookReview Katastrophe by Graham Hurley

Katastrophe by Graham Hurley

Summary:

confidant of Goebbels. Instrument of Stalin. What’s the worst that could happen?

January 1945. Wherever you look on the map, the Thousand Year Reich is shrinking. Even Goebbels has run out of lies to sweeten the reckoning to come. An Allied victory is inevitable, but who will reap the spoils of war?

Two years ago, Werner Nehmann’s war came to an abrupt end in Stalingrad. With the city in ruins, the remains of General Paulus’ Sixth Army surrendered to the Soviets, and Nehmann was taken captive. But now he’s riding on the back of one of Marshal Zhukov’s T-34 tanks, heading home with a message for the man who consigned him to the Stalingrad Cauldron.

With the Red Army about to fall on Berlin, Stalin fears his sometime allies are conspiring to deny him his prize. He needs to speak to Goebbels – and who better to broker the contact than Nehmann, Goebbels’ one-time confidant?

Having swapped the ruins of Stalingrad for the wreckage of Berlin, the influence of Goebbels for the machinations of Stalin, and Gulag rags for a Red Army uniform, Nehmann’s war has taken a turn for the worse. The Germans have a word for it:

Katastrophe.

My Review:

Part of the Spoils of War series, this is book seven and Katastrophe (Aries Fiction) by Graham Hurley is set in the final months of WWII. The vast Russian army is gathering like a storm on the horizon, but this horizon is Berlin. Nazi Germany is facing defeat. But in a Soviet Gulag is Werner Nehmann, a journalist and worked with the infamous Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

Nehmann was captured at the battle of Stalingrad and spent two years in the Gulag, but at the same time as a meeting at Yalta between the Allied leaders it is clear the Stalin believes that both the Americans and the British are trying to do a deal with the soon to be beaten Germans. Now Nehmann is meeting Stalin and is handed a letter that he must take to Berlin and hand it personally to Goebbels, Nehmann is now riding on the back of a T-34 tank heading in the direction of Berlin. He is going home but to a city in ruins as the carnage continues. But what is the contents of the letter? At the same time Nehmann was captured at Stalingrad Willi Schultz who is part of the German Military Intelligence was also captured now he too is meeting with Stalin and is handed a letter that he must take to his master Himmler. Clearly Stalin is trying to manipulate a situation in favour of the Soviets.

But to add to the mystery a member of MI5 is in Switzerland to oversee a meeting between British and American senior military officials and a German General that may lead to the surrender of German forces in Italy. Katastrophe is a gripping WWII historical fiction novel with many characters and events including the fall of Berlin and fabulous plot, that continue to give all through the near 500 pages.

I have not read the previous six in the series but if this is anything to go by, I now want to read all of them. I really enjoyed Graham Hurley’s writing and how he has created the characters. If you enjoy your WWII novels. Put this at the top of your reading wish list.

448 Pages.

My thanks to Sophie Ransom (Ransom PR) and Aries Fiction (Head of Zeus) for the review Copy of Katastrophe by Graham Hurley.  Published on 7th July 2022 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org

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