Learner, T S - 'The Stolen'
This astonishingly good third thriller from this gifted author starts in a forest in Ukraine in 1943 when just after dawn a Nazi SS troop with many fierce dogs surrounds a gypsy encampment. The soldiers advance and slaughter most of the occupants. Those that aren't killed are shipped off to concentration camps such as Auschwitz. The officer in charge Ulrich Vosshoffner was not specifically interested in the gypsies as such but in the treasure that he believed they owned. In particular an ancient statuette of a four-armed lady wrought in an unknown metallic compound which was very unusual; when this was located it was taken by Ulrich with special interest. Also taken by him was a beautiful blonde twelve-year-old girl, whom he later raped.
Then we go forward to a small town near Zurich in Switzerland in 1982; before dawn a gypsy tries to break into the offices of a prominent watchmaker but he is murdered before he is able to make any entry. Widowed physicist Matthias von Holindt has been very successful in his research for new ways of superconductivity in metals and is on the verge of a breakthrough which he believes will revolutionise the energy industry. He is so involved in his research processes that he almost does not notice when his father is implicated in the death of the gypsy but he is forced to use all his resources in an attempt to discover the truth. His relationship with his elderly father who owns the watchmaker's has been distant for some years as Matthias had retreated into himself following the death of his wife in mysterious circumstances. Matthias daughter Lilliane is having terrible nightmares associated with the death of her mother and to avoid these is experimenting with illicit drugs that will drive her to sleep deeply without dreams. However, some of the characters she meets in order to source the drugs gets her parent and grandfather very worried about her.
Matthias feels the pressure of having to relate to his troubled daughter and also his estranged father very difficult. His searches to find the truth about his father drives him to journey to East Germany in secret but with astonishing results. He also, in an attempt to discover more about gypsies in general, meets an American lecturer with a specialism in the topic and they fall in love.
Matthias and his American girl friend have many exciting adventures before the exciting conclusion in this gripping and extremely well researched historical thriller with good period detail. The characters are all very well drawn. The book is quite long at more than 500 pages but once I had got past about 100 pages and absorbed all the different names of characters I found I just could not put it down until the dramatic conclusion was reached. I read her previous book THE MAP which I found equally exciting and I look forward to enjoying more books from this very talented writer. Well recommended.
Terry Halligan, England