Shadows of War

Written by Michael Ridpath

Review written by Adam Colclough

Adam Colclough lives and works in the West Midlands, he writes regularly for a number of websites, one day he will get round to writing a book for someone else to review.


Shadows of War
Head of Zeus
RRP: £7.99
Released: December 3 2015
PBK

October 1939, Britain and Germany are at war, parties operating in secret on both sides want the conflict to be brought to an end before a shot has been fired. The British Secret Service sends army officer Conrad de Lancey to neutral Holland to meet with representatives of German generals planning a coup against Hitler; meanwhile their opposite numbers in Berlin seek to activate a network of sympathisers in high places to engineer a revival of appeasement.

Before long, Conrad de Lancey finds himself at the centre of a complicated maze of plots, allegiances and outright opportunism where even those closest to him might not be trustworthy. As the panzers roll and Europe goes up in flames he must race against time to foil a plot that reaches to the very top of the British establishment.

On one level this is a rip-roaring old school adventure story, the sort that rushes its readers from one life or death situation to another at a truly blistering pace. The thrills and plot twists come thick and fast, bestowing the final chapters a real sense of the characters being in a desperate race against time, as the world as they knew it - crumbles around them.

On another level what Michael Ridpath has produced here is a brilliantly achieved piece of historical fiction. He gets perfectly the febrile atmosphere of life in Britain and much of Europe during the 'phony war', when for all the blackouts and barrage balloons life seemed to go on almost as normal. This is followed by an equally brilliant evocation of the frightening weeks following the invasion of France.

Ridpath's skill as a writer of historical fiction is demonstrated by his ability to mix real figures such as Winston Churchill and the former Edward VIII into his narrative, something it is hard to do without the result seeming contrived. He also captures perfectly the hardships of life during wartime, from the impossibility of making even the shortest journey, and the unspoken prejudice faced by people who had fled to Britain from Nazi occupied countries.

This is first rate and all too often a scarily believable thriller, suggesting just how close Britain's finest hour came to being her most shameful.

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