Schumacher, Tony - 'The Darkest Hour'
In 1940s London, life is bleak and hard with shortages for everyone except for the occupying forces of the Third Reich. Britain has lost the war and is now an occupied country and the policies that have so successfully been used in Germany to get rid of dissidents and Jews are being effectively employed again. John Rossett is a decorated war hero and after release from a prisoner of war camp returns to his former employment as a police sergeant. While in the camp his wife and young child had been killed by a bomb set by the resistance and Rossett has never recovered. He is seconded to work with the occupied forces in rounding up Jews for deportation to labour camps across the Channel and is ostracisedby his police colleagues as a result, but his appointment is considered a political coup by the occupying forces.
However, Rossett's life is turned upside down when he comes across a young boy that has been hidden by his grandfather from the latest round of deportations. Suddenly his finds himself drawn into the conflicts between the Germans, the communist resistance and the royalist resistance as he struggles to protect the child and recover the gold sovereigns and diamonds that the child's grandfather has managed to hide for the child's future.
I found this an uncomfortable book to read. It is compelling and very bleak. Most likely this was due to the topic - the unrelenting sadness in the book which I think accurately captures the mood of the country after the war - even though the premise of the book is, obviously, the opposite of what actually happened.
This is the first novel that the author has had published but his writing is very mature. The theme of the book has been used by other more established novelists such as Robert Harris but I feel it stands up well to the competition.I will look out with interest for the next novel by this interesting writer.
Susan White, England
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