Book Review - "The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men"

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.

9780547669199_p0_v1_s260x420The Nazis Next Door by Eric Lichtblau is a compelling reminder of how quickly man’s inhumanity to man has been forgotten.  Many in the FBI, CIA, the space program, and other agencies of the US government teamed up with war-criminal Nazis to combat the Soviets.  As WWII came to an end there were those in the government that were more concerned about the next great conflict, the threat of Communism. The book delves into two issues.  The first chapter in the book examines an important topic, the myth of the concentration camp liberation. The second narrative is the story of the people who worked so hard for decades to find war criminals given safe haven by the FBI, CIA, and military. 

Lichtblau points out how many Jewish survivors had to be bunked side by side with the Nazi POWs, while in certain cases, the Nazi tormentors were given the duties of overseers of the camps including medical care.  These terrible conditions in the Displaced Person’s Camp were highlighted, showing how the detainees were kept there because of illness, lack of resources, or because visas were limited.  The author compares this to the thousands of Nazis able to gain entry as self-proclaimed refugees, or with the help and protection of US government agencies.

The author commented to, “History has forgotten what happened to the survivors.  There is an image that they were embraced by the allied forces as they flooded out from the camps, given warm showers, beds, and plentiful food.  It was really not like that at all. The blame has to go to U.S. Army General George Patton who was in charge of the displaced persons camps. He had sort of an odd fondness almost for the Nazi prisoners, believe it or not. He believed that they were the ones in the best position to efficiently run the camps, and he gave them supervisory approval to basically lord over the Jews and the other survivors. I hope the book makes people aware of the horrific conditions of the camps and Patton’s overt Anti-Semitism.  Jewish groups complained to President Truman who did not ignore it.  After an investigation there was a blistering and condemning report, lost to history, by Penn Law School Dean, Earl Harrison.  This report to Truman stated, ‘As matters now stand, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them.’ Even though conditions did improve some survivors were kept in the camps for as long as five years. They were still confined behind barbed wire, under armed guard in camps.”

Nazis who were able to flourish in the US included Dr. Hubertus Strughold, Arthur Rudolph, Otto von Bolschwing, and Rocket Scientist Werher von Braun. American civilian and military leaders chose to look the other way because of the information and knowledge in science, medicine, military, and engineering the Nazis provided during the Cold War fight. For example, Dr. Hubertus Strughold, M.D., once director of the Aviation Medical Research Institute in the Third Reich, was recruited by the U.S. Air Force and rose to head its School of Aviation Medicine in San Antonio. He became celebrated as "the father of space medicine,” even though he performed medical experiments at Dachau involving subjecting victims to high altitude and freezing torture.  There is also the case of Otto von Bolschwing, an asset for the CIA, even though he was a onetime colleague of Adolf Eichmann's who had laid out a plan for persecuting Germany's Jews.

Lichtblau noted, “There was this blind spot of the benefit of having them help in the Cold War effort.  Remember the Dulles quote, paraphrasing, ‘I would deal with the devil himself if it would help national security.’ In the early months, and the first few years after the war, beginning in mid-1945, there were only a very limited number of immigration visas to get into the United States. There were many, many thousands of Nazi collaborators who got visas to the United States while the survivors did not.”

The Nazis Next Door powerfully examines if the cost of harboring Nazis within US society outweighed the gains for national security.  There was the new mindset that the Nazis were yesterday’s enemies, with the newfound enemy the Soviet Union. Readers are asked to consider if the allies betrayed those who suffered atrocities. The book is very interesting and an eye-opener.

Book Review - "Blood Infernal" by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

9780062343260_p0_v2_s260x420Blood Infernal, the third installment, by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell is an amazing finale to the Sanguines series.  It combines what Rollins is known for and does so well, his ability to intermix an adventure story with religion and history, with a dose of a love story and a supernatural mystery. 

Rollins noted to, “I write three different series, but they all have the flavor of the same storyline where I use fiction intertwined with taking science and history two steps to the right, left, or forward.  This is my passion. For example, the Bible scriptures were used in this book to connect biblical history to the present day, an introduction of sort to each chapter, an echo of the context of that chapter. This is a way of showing how the storyline is based on real Christian thought. Unlike the other series I write I did not put in at the end a ‘what’s true and what’s not.’ A lot of the details with regard to references of the Bible and policy procedures of the Vatican are pretty accurate.  My cousin is a Priest who helped me with the information.  I guess it can best be described as an alternate history with regard to the Church.”

The story takes off from the very first page. The series heroes return: The Knight of Christ, Rhun Korza; The Warrior of Man, Jordan Stone; and the Woman of Learning, Erin Granger, along with the person able to connect key information, Countess Elizabeth.  They travel throughout Europe on a quest to save mankind, while keeping the “Gates of Hell” locked.  With the Apocalypse looming the protagonists must battle a demon named Legion, and face the devil himself, Lucifer.   This fight of good versus evil includes philosophical questions about salvation, lost innocence, and damnation.  All the pieces come together in this riveting thriller where the heroes must survive horrific battles, betrayals, and grueling tests of perseverance.

Because he is so supportive of the armed forces all his books have a military main character.  The Sanguines series features the Warrior Jordan Stone, the dog series highlights Tucker Wayne, a former military dog handler, and the Sigma series has Gary Pierce. As with many of those serving, Jordan is someone dependable, intuitive, and willing to sacrifice all to keep those he cares about safe.

The other characters are exciting and captivating.  They are well developed, dynamic, and realistic in that readers forget they are vampires.  Countess Elizabeth has a fantastic and intriguing personality that has grown throughout the three books.  At times she is described as bad but a more accurate description would be she is a bad a_ _.  She is one of those who will tell it like it is and is not afraid to hold back.  Her actions always seem to have some reason behind it such has her desire to protect those she loves.  She is very confident in her own resolve, her personal right and wrong.

Rollins believes Elizabeth “has a self-defining morality that steers her.  She turned her interest in medicine, science, and healing into using experiments in an attempt to understand her vampire nature.  Her morals are based on saving the ones she loves.  She was not evil for evil sake but has her own moralistic needle.” 

Elizabeth is contrasted well with the head of the Sanguines, Cardinal Bernard.  While she appears to have no faith, not believing in G-d, he justifies what he does in the name of religion and is shown to be a huge hypocrite.  He is good at identifying and condemning others while ignoring his own sins.  Another excellent contrast is science versus religion, which is seen through the eyes of archeologist Dr. Erin Granger.  Being a scientist she must try to balance that with faith and morality, weighing the tangible evidence and facts of science with the miracles of religion. The storyline wonderfully shows how there is this mixture of gray area where no belief is concrete.

Blood Infernal has a wonderful and thrilling plot.  The sad part is that this is the last book in the series for now.  The authors skillfully combine historical elements of Christianity, science, and love into a wonderful story that is action packed and will tug at the reader’s emotions.  It is a must read for anyone who wants to be glued to a book.

Book Review - "The Carrier" by Sophie Hannah

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780670785865_p0_v2_s260x420The Carrier by Sophie Hannah is an intense psychological thriller.  It can be considered a love story and a gripping mystery, a “who done it” of sorts.  Released earlier this month in the US, it has already won the 2013 Crime Thriller of the Year at the UK National Book Awards.

This story offers deep insights into interpersonal relationships through the different character’s personalities.  The plot begins when Gaby Struthers, a scientist who has an innovative technology company must room with Lauren Cookson, a caregiver prone to hysteria.  They are stuck in Germany overnight when their plane is delayed.  Lauren lets slip that she knows someone who has been arrested for murdering his wife, Francine, and that he, Tim, is innocent. Panicky, she refuses to discuss the matter further, but a quick Google search tells Gaby that the man now in jail is the only man she has ever loved. The storyline plays off the book, Murder On the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, where a certain number of people are “persons of interest” in the house where the murder occurred. Recurring characters, Detectives Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer try to sort out the different stories of those involved, attempting to find the true murderer. The sub-plot shows through poetry the love Gaby and Tim have for each other, and how Gaby will stop at nothing to prove Tim’s innocence.

The characters are a dichotomy of each other, with the heroine, Gaby, the only one that is truly likeable, although, Lauren is someone that grows on the reader.  Gaby is strong, smart, independent, and sharp-tongued.  It is a wonder why she would fall so hard for Tim who appears boring, self-centered manipulative, wimpy, and spineless. Lauren is frighteningly prone to hysteria, a complainer, whiny, yet very vulnerable, insecure, and has a moral compass.

Hannah noted to, “I wanted Gaby’s character to stand out.  My intention was for Gaby to be the heroine and the one who the readers will identify with.  She finds herself in a situation where almost everybody she comes into contact with is abusive, unsatisfactory, or not very supportive.  While Gaby is tough and must look after herself, all the others let her down. I will have a future cameo role for her in another book. To Gaby, Tim is like a performance that seems to impress her.  What makes her attracted to him is his attitude.  Opposites attract.  She is intelligent, a high achiever who has her act together in every way but her romantic feelings.  Gaby is a sucker for Tim’s awful, manipulative, and useless ways. She should have walked away from him since he caused her a load of misery.  Regarding the other characters, I did not intentionally write them as despicable.  They were pushed around with forces beyond their control. Although Lauren can be infuriating she does have redeeming features.”

Adding to the intrigue of the novel are the many themes of the book.  The examination of people’s dysfunctional relationships, how their emotions make them behave as they do and what lengths ordinary people will go to in response to extraordinary events. There is also the potent subject of mercy killing vs. assisted suicide vs. murder. Finally, the author explores what happens when a good person takes upon evil traits.

The Carrier is a riveting tale of emotionally scarred and psychologically paralyzed characters.  What makes the story even more interesting is the alternating perspectives between the heroine Gaby and the police investigation concerning the mystery.

Hannah also gave a heads up about her next book due out this summer, Woman With A Secret, a Zailer and Waterhouse mystery.  It is about a respectable housewife and mother, Nicki, who is leading a dangerous secret double life. Because of her suspicious behavior, and her inability to explain to the police her whereabouts, Nicki becomes the person of interest in a murder investigation. The victim is a controversial newspaper journalist, a shock jock columnist who seems to offend every element of a population. 


Exclusive Interview with Author Jack Higgins

The following interview with Jack Higgins is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category on the right side bar.

Jack Higgins, the author of the famous book, The Eagle Has Landed, has a new book out, Rain On The Dead. There are similarities between both books, including IRA characters, the main character as someone flawed, as well as a plot line that includes assassinations and kidnappings. 

Rain On The Dead begins when two Chechen Muslims attempt to assassinate the US President, Jack Cazalet.  Unfortunately for them, Cazalet has guests with him, including black ops specialist Sean Dillon, and ex-IRA gunman, and his colleague, Afghan war hero Captain Sara Gideon. With the help of the English authorities Dillon, Gideon, and company search for those responsible, IRA sympathizers and Al Qaeda terrorists.

Yet, readers cannot think of Higgins without bringing to mind his classic thriller, The Eagle Has Landed, especially since this year is the fortieth anniversary. The plot has Colonel Kurt Steiner forced to take a crack team of commandos to England.  Their mission is to kidnap or assassinate Winston Churchill.  The Germans enlist the help of an IRA assassin and a South African woman who hates everything the English stand for.  This book is a riveting account of whether the Germans will succeed.

Below is the Q/A with the author about these two books for

Elise Cooper:  Both books deal with the IRA.  What point were you trying to make?

Jack Higgins:  They were fighting for the position of Ireland in the British Empire.  They wanted independence as a country.  In the end they achieved something of the kind.   

EC:  In Rain On The Dead you imply that the IRA fights for independence while the Muslim terrorists fight to impose their will.  Do you agree? 

JH:  Yes.  I see what you mean.  Both groups are fighting a new type of war and do not wear a uniform.  It becomes very difficult for the authorities to recognize the enemy.  It could be anyone in the street.  At least with the Irish, they had a genuine desire for independence, which many saw as reasonable.  I would not compare this with they type of terrorism the American President and the British Prime Minister were recently discussing. 

EC:  Let’s talk about Rain On The Dead.  In it you have the likeable character Sara Gideon who is Jewish.  Why?

JH:  I made her Jewish because my foster parents were Jewish and were very good to me.  I got to know Jewish traditions and the faith very well.  I wanted to show that there are plenty of Jewish people who are serving in the British and US military.  That is why she is a retired war hero.  She is a good character and her Jewishness is a part of who she is. 

EC:  Why did you bring back the former US President, Jack Cazalet?

JH:  I found it interesting to use him in this story.  He is quite a popular character and I enjoy writing about him so I felt we were at a stage to bring him back.  There are a huge number of fans that look forward to reading about this character and seeing what will happen to him. 

EC:  What US President did you most admire?

JH:  I suppose it would have to be Jack Kennedy.  Many years ago I wrote a book, Day of Judgment, which was primarily set in Germany.  It had in it a very famous visit by a US President to Berlin where he made a very famous speech to the German people.  Historically, it affected world politics at the time.  I used it as background for this book.  The novel is about the underground that tried to help people escape from the East German Communist regime.  Obviously, I used President Kennedy in certain scenes of the book. 

EC:  Your style is to write characters that are not all good and are not all bad, such as Sean Dillon and Colonel Kurt Steiner.  Please explain.

JH:  Human beings are not like they are portrayed in Hollywood.  They are individuals who are a mixture of good and bad.  Many of my fans like these type of characters.  I like when people question if the characters are really villains or protagonists. These types are very interesting to write about.

EC:  What about Steiner?

JH:  I tried to make the point that he and his men were not Nazis but just soldiers.  Steiner is a reasonable person who was forced by circumstances to do a certain job.  There is not much he could do about it.  If he did not join he and his family would all be punished. 

EC: In The Eagle Has Landed you contrast the soldiers with the Nazi atrocities of the Warsaw Ghetto and what was done to Steiner’s father.  Why?

JH:  I wanted to show these atrocities through the eyes of the German soldiers.  They were disgusted by what was happening; yet, were unable to do much to stop it.  I also had some personal experiences.  I served in Germany just after the Second World War and my uncle was a regular soldier in the British army.  He was wounded and captured early in the war.  Although he was not Jewish he was sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp to work in the factory there, which was against international law.  This gave me an interest in the Nazi situation and World War II.

EC:  Colonel Steiner saved a Jewish girl but was not executed.  Is that realistic?

JH:  Yes.  What the Germans did to soldiers like Steiner is require them to do very dangerous jobs within the military.  For example, they worked to dispose bombs and clear mine fields.  With these jobs there was a good chance of blowing themselves up.  In the novel, Steiner and his men were made to do the dangerous work of sitting on top of torpedoes to disarm them.  This was a suicide job since most did not survive for very long. 

EC:  In the book you have Steiner commenting on the rules of engagement. This is the direct opposite of what the Islamists terrorists did in your latest book. Please explain this quote from The Eagle Has Landed, “Why, did you think we’d hold the entire village hostage or come out fighting, driving the women in front of us?  The brutal Hun? Sorry I can’t oblige.”

JH:  Steiner was an honorable man and soldier.  He had a moral code.  I really don’t know why the Muslims do what they are doing.  Those terrorists don’t seem to have a moral code. 


EC:  Since this is the fortieth anniversary of The Eagle Has Landed any plans?


JH:  I believe there is talk of remaking the story on television.  There was the movie starring Michael Caine as Steiner.  I think a TV show would be very helpful to get more of the book story told than in the two hour and ten minute film.



Book Review - "Breaking Creed" by Alex Kava

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780399170768_p0_v2_s260x420Breaking Creed by Alex Kava is a fascinating mystery based around a serial killer who is being chased by an FBI agent and a retired Marine.  In this new series Ryder Creed uses the dog handler skills he learned as a Marine in his current civilian job. Her other series has FBI behaviorist Maggie O’ Dell investigating horrid crimes.

Creed was introduced in Stranded, a book from Kava’s other series whose main character is FBI behaviorist Maggie O’ Dell. Although the Creed series is being billed as new, it is actually a spin off of the O’ Dell books.  Kava noted to that her two series, the O’ Dell and the Creed books, will overlap.  “Each series will alternate between the main character and the supporting one, but both will have a strong role in the plots.  They will not just make cameo appearances. Yet, respectively they will have their own secondary characters.  The many different scenarios that I can get into is very exciting for me. Ryder is a different kind of investigative character.  He does not carry a gun and is not an intricate part of the crimes scene investigation. I am able to add a new dimension to the plot.”

Readers will find Creed a very likeable but damaged character, who is trying to overcome PTSD.  He does this with the support of his good friend, Hannah. He gains solace by taking in and training abandoned dogs to assist law enforcement.  Hannah also helps the discarded, individuals who are runaways, abused women, and veterans that must try to overcome tragic circumstances, among them a former Marine, Jason.  What makes these stories very interesting are the likeable characters, the chemistry between Ryder and Maggie, and the banter among Hannah and Creed. But the character that stole the show is Grace, a Jack Russell Terrier.  She is feisty, scrappy, driven, and eager to learn. 

In this story Creed and his dogs comb for drugs, become a search and rescue team for trafficked children, and help O’Dell find the dead victims of a serial killer.  The story becomes very suspenseful, as Creed, O’Dell, and company must find the killer before he finds them.  To add to the intensity Kava brings in creepy, crawling things, such as fire ants, scorpions, and snakes.

Kava gives a shout out to those in the military through many of her characters.  Hannah’s husband, Creed, and Jason all served, although her husband was killed while deployed.  The author always touches on an issue related to military personnel.  In Breaking Creed she discusses PTSD while in her next book Kava will explore the suicide rate among veterans.

Breaking Creed has a very fast-paced and thrilling plot with many twists and turns.  For any dog lover this is a must read. If not an animal lover, readers can also just enjoy the tough, smart, and dynamic characters of this series.

The author also gave a heads up about her next book, Silent Creed.  It will continue the sexual tension between Maggie and Ryder as they work on a new case together.  Kava is known for including among her antagonists non-human elements. With Silent Creed the threat comes from, not creepy things, but the environment. 

The plot begins with a massive landslide in North Carolina.  Creed and his canine partners are called in to help with the search and rescue of a facility that was destroyed by the landslide.  Maggie is also brought in to investigate the facilities secret experiments involving viruses. 

Book Review - "Spectrum" by Alan Jacobson

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right sidebar.

9781497641938_p0_v1_s260x420Spectrum by Alan Jacobson is a very interesting thriller as it explores the main characters’, Karen Vail’s, backstory.  Through a serial killer case that has haunted Vail for twenty years the author gives insight into her professional development:  who were the people that influenced her, and her tenacious desire to pursue the criminal.  The chapters in the book alternate from present day back to her first days on the job.

Jacobson commented to, “While writing her as a rookie cop in her early twenties I was nervous at first.  But after the first paragraph I saw how I could explore her attributes and her life.  In the 7th Victim I alluded to why she decided to become a profiler but now I specifically explain what happened.  I was also able to describe how she allowed herself to marry a loser husband who was abusive.  This sub-plot showed what could happen to someone who has a psychiatric condition that goes untreated.”

The story reflects themes of friendship, trust, hardship, and perseverance.  Vail’s law enforcement career begins in the 1990s as a NYPD rookie cop mentored by a veteran, Carmine Russo, who takes her under his wing.  She displays the qualities of courage, confidence, and intelligence while attempting to examine the workings of the murderer’s mind.  Unfortunately her supervisors do not always agree with her assessments, resulting in her career stalling. After meeting and being influenced by FBI Special Agent Mark Safarik she decides to join the FBI, eventually getting assigned to the esteemed Behavioral Analysis Unit.  Now twenty years later, Vail revisits her first case, the one that tortured her because of the number of New York women brutally murdered.

Since so many of Jacobson’s characters are from law enforcement he speculated on what they would say in regard to the attitude toward the police today.  “Through my research I interacted with NYPD old timers.  I think my characters would agree with those who have retired.  They are not happy with the Mayor, who does not seem to have their backs, and the way they are being depicted.  The feelings include frustration and anger because there is a lack of understanding for the day-to-day duties.  The police are individuals trying to do a job the best way they can.”

Jacobson also wants readers to understand, playing off the Billy Joel song, that while writing this book, “I was in a ‘New York state of mind.’ It started from a trip in 1995 when I made a visit to New York City, where I grew up.  You can take the man out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the man.  This is absolutely true with me. My heart and soul is as a New Yorker even though I have lived in California ten years longer.”

Spectrum has a plot that combines a mystery with an understanding of how the mind of a serial killer works.  It explores how these individuals can commit such violence on other human beings.  Fans of Karen Vail also get a bonus because the storyline explains her backstory.

Book Review - "Dark Spies" by Matthew Dunn

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the right side bar.

9780062309464_p0_v2_s260x420Fans of thrillers have lost major author icons Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy.  If they are looking for someone who might live up to these legends, try Matthew Dunn. He writes about espionage and takes the reader on an intense journey with every storyline. His latest, Dark Spies, is a riveting and gripping novel whose main character, Will Cochrane, is a lot like Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, each willing to throw personal safety aside to protect their country.

Of this strong Spymaster series, Dark Spies is probably Dunn’s best. The storyline and characters are so very well developed. The plot begins with Will acting as a bodyguard for a deep cover CIA agent, Ellie Hallowes, as she attempts to extract information from a Russian asset.  Unfortunately, this mission goes south when assassins led by Russian spymaster, Antaeus, attempt to execute the US operative.  Will does not understand why Langley orders him to stand down, and instead takes matters into his own hands to save Ellie. Attempting to find the truth about the inexplicable orders, Hallowes returns to the US to seek out who is behind this scheme while Will, now a marked man and on the run, must outmaneuver deadly Russian assassins, an elite FBI team, and powerful self serving intelligence officials, one who outted him. 

The Ellie Hallowes character is someone readers root for.  She is the female equivalent of Will Cochrane.  Both are heroic, personable, tough, compassionate, kind, thoughtful, and lonely.  She is best described as Will’s kindred spirit for her similar experiences, background, and mindset.  The mission is everything to them and if they no longer were able to be spies they would drift endlessly emotionally and physically.  The other character introduced in this book is FBI Special Agent Marsha Gage.  She is intelligent, sharp, and is no nonsense while managing the many egos of the task force.  Dunn noted, “Ellie and Marsha are so very different.  Ellie is drawn into herself. If I stuck both in a room of a hundred people, Ellie would want to get out as quickly as possible because she lives in the shadows. On the other hand, Marsha would be very comfortable in that setting.”

The author has spent five years as a deep undercover agent for MI6 so he is able to use his experiences to write realistic stories.  As he explains in the book, he quickly understood that the major attributes of an operative are instinct and imagination. Dunn commented directly to, “This is something that cannot really be trained, the ability to use your ‘antenna eyes.’  Deep cover agents rely on finding out people’s characteristics.  I want to show in this book how operatives are addicted to finding the truth, stealing secrets is in their blood. They find it difficult to break this habit. People also need to understand that deep cover officers put themselves in severe danger, operating on a limb.  There is no diplomatic cover and immunity.  Spies typically operate in extremely hostile locations.  If caught, at best they’ll get jail time and at worst they will be executed. It is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.”

The plot hammers the point home that the intelligence community needs to consider multiple fronts.  The book’s plot exemplifies how countries such as Russia could manipulate circumstances to their advantage. It also shows the need for HUMINT, to gain information through interpersonal contact.  In this case Russia tried to manipulate Great Britain and the US to react to a perceived situation of a terrorist meeting that would have had a catastrophic result, had it not been for Ellie’s due diligence. It became evident that the dangers lie with major rogue states that can destabilize the world order.

Dark Spies conjures up memories of Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal, including the collaboration of agencies and the movement through multiple countries and continents. The characters search for the truth provides an exciting read that is solidly grounded in the real world.

Book Review - "A Fine Summer Day" by Charles Todd

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

9780062237125_p0_v2_s260x420A Fine Summer’s Day by Charles Todd is being billed as a prequel to the Ian Rutledge series.  But it is much more that that, as the authors put the readers right in the middle of the hysteria about going to war at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Intermingled with World War I facts is the backstory of Ian Rutledge, examining who he was before the war. 

The story’s timing occurs just before World War I begins, in June 1914.  While most are focused on the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo, Rutledge is concentrating on a case involving a series of murders across England, which are seemingly unconnected. He is also pre-occupied with his engagement to Jean Gordon, someone whom he dearly loves despite the reservations of his friends and family.

Readers get a clearer picture of Jean’s personality before the war began. She is seen as superficial, which creates an understanding of why she slighted him after he came back from the war with shell shock.  The authors show her as having a personality without a lot of depth and spoiled by her parents.  She measured herself with regard to her friends, always wanting to keep up appearances.  Jean is almost the direct opposite of her friend Kate who is also beautiful and charming, but who is someone readers can like. 

Through the character’s eyes the authors show how people at that time were swept up in the glory of war.  The Todds noted to, “We put this quote in the book by Ian who is the voice of reality, ‘And now everyone was mad for war.  As if the excitement was all they saw… It’s not all parades and bands and uniforms, it’s cruelty and misery and destruction.’ He was not swept up in that mad rush.  He had no illusions since as a policeman he had seen dead bodies.  At first he saw himself not as a soldier but as a policeman who had a duty to solve this case.  While working on the case he placed his obligation as a policeman before his duty of King and Country. After solving the case he enlisted because he felt he was needed. Britain was pressed for men considering the massive German army, and needed good officers who could command men.”

A Fine Summer’s Day is a gripping novel that captures people’s thoughts and experiences regarding the pre-World War I years.  The authors are able to skillfully intermingle this within a very riveting murder mystery.  This book is a page-turner that readers will not want to put down.