Monday, 21 March 2016

THE DARKEST HOUR by Tony Schumacher - a review

The Blurb
London, 1946. The Nazis have conquered the British, and now occupy Great Britain, using brutality and fear to control its citizens. John Henry Rossett, a decorated British war hero and former police sergeant, has been reassigned to the Office of Jewish Affairs. He now answers to the SS, one of the most powerful and terrifying organizations in the Third Reich.

Rossett is a man accustomed to obeying commands, but he’s now assigned a job he did not ask for—and cannot refuse: rounding up Jews for deportation, including men and women he’s known his whole life. But they are not the only victims, for the war took Rossett’s wife and son, and shattered his own humanity.

Then he finds Jacob, a young Jewish child, hiding in an abandoned building, who touches something in Rossett that he thought was long dead.

Determined to save the innocent boy, Rossett takes him on the run, with the Nazis in pursuit. But they are not the only hunters following his trail. The Royalist Resistance and the Communists want him, too. Each faction has its own agenda, and Rossett will soon learn that none of them can be trusted . . . and all of them are deadly.

The Review
With a premise like that, it would take a lot for this book not to be hugely enjoyable. And hugely enjoyable, it certainly is.

John Rossett is a war hero turned collaborator – a somewhat robotic figure, reminiscent of Winston Smith in some respects, from Orwell’s 1984. I struggled with him to begin with - his lack of passion, his empty subservience, until it became clear how the war had damaged him on the deepest of levels.

Then it all made sense.

The plot crackles along in an alternative 1946 London that is beautifully atmospheric, peopled with a whole cast of desperate characters, existing beneath and within the Nazi regime that dominates the lives of every Englishman with a typically iron fist.

There are car chases and gunfights, and a cat and mouse game of oppressor versus oppressed, running throughout the book entire book. Holding it all together, however, is the relationship between two seemingly incompatible characters – Rossett and his boss at the Office of Jewish Affairs, Ernst Koehler. Schumacher portrays their relationship brilliantly, holding the tension of the gossamer thread that connects one with the other with a consistently steady hand.

Although the book ostensibly seems to be about the recovery of some diamonds, almost the entire cast of the book are out to discover, or rediscover, just one thing – their humanity.

This, for me, is an anti-war book. A book that shows what war can do to people, how it can make human beings commit the most horrendous acts, undergo the most horrific experiences, and what it takes from them in the process.

 But being what it is, humanity can be found in the rarest of places.

Highly recommended.

The Darkest Hour is available from Amazon UK here

and from Amazon US here 

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