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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Complex mystery in dangerous times



A gripping and edgy story of intelligence gathering right under the noses of elite of the Third Reich. Born in Britain, half-German actress and movie star Clara Vine, is a British contact in the dangerous days of pre war Berlin of 1937, gathering relevant information on the movements and interests of the major German players. The names mentioned, the circles Clara has access to are the who's who of the upper echelons in the Nazi party.
Two incidences appear to cross each other, the murder of a young woman at one of Hitler's Bride Schools where young women train to be wives of SS personnel, and the gathering of information about the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe developments in aeronautics, in particular cameras being used on planes.
Clara realizes she knows the murdered woman from the past, Anna Hansen. Her death is hushed up. Clara's friend Mary, an American journalist, has just returned from the war in Spain and been allowed to re-enter Germany, despite being previously expelled. Clara turns Mary's attention towards the murdered woman.
Clara is about to star in a movie alongside a famous German pilot. This opens up possibilities for Clara to gather further information. Her handler at the British Embassy has warned her to lie low. Her name has been mentioned in Gestapo circles.
Two men claim Clara's attention, the mysterious Ralph Sommers and Arno Strauss, a top German test pilot.
Aa a movie star Clara attends events and parties, alongside British supporters of fascism and Hitler in particular. Making their appearance are Diana and Unity Mitford, Edward, now the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson.
These days, as the British parliament and people were undecided about Hitler, as Lord Halifax continued to court Germany, were dangerous times for Britain. The sense of all of this, the power of the Gestapo, the winning over of children in the Hitler Youth Movement, the treatment of the Jewish population, the rise of power of fascism and extremism , the excesses of Hitler's elite senior personnel such as the Goebbels are seamlessly woven into the story; stark reminders of the horrors that would intensify as the thirties come to a close.
An excellent read. Thynne's research is to be commended.

A NetGalley ARC

****

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