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Midnight in Berlin/James MacManus

I very much enjoyed Sleep in Peace Tonight by James MacManus , built around Harry Hopkins, envoy of President Roosevelt’s trip to London in 1941. So when the helpful people at Amazon as part of their “If you liked X ,  you would like Y ‘ service, recommended his Midnight in Berlin I was only too pleased to download it. Incidentally when was the last time you visited a bookshop and an assistant said “Based on your last purchase I thought you would enjoy this?”

This novel is set  in 1938 in the British Embassy in Berlin. Almost all the characters and events are true. The ambassador Sir Neville Henderson is an unabashed appeaser, an outlook not shared by the military attaché Noel Macrae nor by the spy Roger Halliday. The naivety of Chamberlain in failing to read the global aggrandisement of Hitler is one of the most startling aspects of the book. Had a realistic attempt been made to save Czechoslovakia and to block this as Hitler marched into the Sudetenland then an army coup might have unseated Hitler. As it was the Nazis took Czechoslovakia and crucially  its succesful arms industry

The evilness of the regime is also well portrayed through a high class brothel known as the Salon which the Gestaopo controlled to compromise diplomats and reward associates. There worked a Jewish prostitute, Sara, the lover of Reinhard Heydrich, arguably the nastiest Nazi of all. Macrae and a senior Gestapo officer Joachim Bonner are seduced by her charms. This leads to an exciting denouement which I won’t spoil. Heydrich typifies the difficulty we have in understanding the Nazi mindset; a man whose dedication to detail was more than obsessive built the Gestapo into an efficient terror organisation that buttressed Hitler’s regime. Personally he was a keen and talented violinist which made me wonder how the country of Goethe and Beethoven ever produced the Nazis. As this book shows Hitler could and should have been stopped but the appeasers, mindful of the losses in the First World War and being weak and naive, sat on their hands in the hope they could restrain both Hitler and achieve peace in out time, both of which they conspicuously failed to do. The ambassador is especially guilty.

As regards the writing, parts – especially the sex descriptions – were below par and the fictional characters like Sara less credible then the real ones but it’s a cracking read. This World War Two historical faction is a popular genre. I have recommended  In Love and War by Alex Preston and   Dominion by C.J. Ransom based on the hypothesis that Lord Halifax not Churchill assumes power in 1940 and Britain becomes a satellite Nazi state as fine examples  but MacManus has made his contribution. I have  no doubt Amazon will be watching out for me for the next one.

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About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts