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 side bar.
The British Lion by Tony Schumacher is the sequel to his first novel, an alternate history where the Nazis actually win World War II, occupy England, and are supported by the US government.
The hero of The Darkest Hour, John Rossett, returns as he helps his Nazi boss save his daughter, who has been kidnapped by American spies. He must find Ruth Hartz, a Jewish scientist imprisoned by the Germans and forced to work on developing an atom bomb, so she can be swapped for the daughter. Rossett battles not only the Nazi occupiers, but also the British Resistance who are from the criminal underworld, as well as some rogue American spies led by Allen Dulles who covertly works to defeat Hitler.
Besides the real-life figure of Dulles, Schumacher incorporates into the story Ambassador to the United Kingdom Joe Kennedy and US President Charles Lindbergh. Both men desire to have a good relationship with Hitler and to start a trade agreement. Although many historical books ignore Kennedy’s and Lindbergh’s anti-Semitism, Schumacher uses it to enhance the plot. Readers will learn the true facts of Lindbergh’s views regarding the Jews, considering them sinister, corrupt, and committed to destroying Christian morality. They also learn that Kennedy looked upon appeasement with Hitler as something positive, especially the economic ties between the two sides.
But the most powerful part of the novel is its theme, what will people morally sacrifice to pay the price for their life? This is brought home by the quote, “We’re part of a machine, John…whatever I think about the machine, how I feel about what it does, it doesn’t matter. If I don’t do what I’m supposed to do…I die.” The author also takes the theme one step further by having readers decide if the person with the clipboard is as responsible or more responsible for the Jewish deaths than the ones who actually did the killings.
The author noted to blackfive.net, “I read about this incident where a sixteen year old shot a policeman in the 1950s. There were these two guys on the rooftop, one pulled the trigger and the other told him to do it. I thought about my book story and wondered about those who ordered people on trains: are they just as guilty as those who actually killed. I think the minute anyone knows what they are doing they are just as responsible. Without the bureaucrat you could not have had the actual killer. I want readers to ask questions and think about the issues.”
Through his brilliant character development readers begin to sympathize with not only Ruth, the Jewish scientist, but with her Nazi collaborator rescuer, John Rossett. Ruth is the only one in the story with complete moralistic integrity, willing to kill herself to make sure the Nazis never get the bomb. Rossett comes across as someone wanting to make amends, to become a better person, since his original job was to displace Jews. Although people will not give this complex and flawed character a full pardon, they find themselves rooting for him as he tries to overcome his sins by fighting subversively against the Nazi regime.
The British Lion reminds readers in many different ways about man’s inhumanity to man. It becomes obvious Schumacher has done his historical research about Nazis, their sympathizers, and the Holocaust, He mixes those facts into a riveting story, creating an alternate history that has readers tremble with the realistic possibilities. This is a must read considering what is happening in the world today.