*I received an paperback copy in return for an honest review*
Midnight In Berlin by James MacManus
Berlin, 1938. Newly-appointed military attaché Noel Macrae and his extrovert wife Primrose arrive at the British Embassy. Prime Minister Chamberlain is intent on placating Nazi Germany, but Macrae is less so. Convinced that Hitler can be stopped by other means than appeasement, he soon finds that he is not the only dissenting voice in the Embassy, and discovers senior officers in the German military who are prepared to turn against the Führer.
Gathering vital intelligence, Macrae is drawn to Kitty Schmidt’s Salon (a Nazi bordello) and its enigmatic Jewish hostess Sara Sternschein—a favourite of sadistic Gestapo boss Reinhard Heydrich. Sara is a treasure-trove of knowledge about the Nazi hierarchy in a city of lies, spies and secrets. Does she hold the key to thwarting Hitler or is Macrae just being manipulated by her, while his wife romantically pursues his most important German military contact, Florian Koenig?
MacManus’s absorbing new novel evokes a time and place when the personal and political stakes could not be higher, and where the urge for peaceful compromise conflicts with higher ideals and a vicious regime bent on war. As loyalties are stretched to the limit and Europe slides towards another war, could just one act of great courage and sacrifice change everything?
This novel is ww2 fiction at its finest! It is rich in its content and character depth. I also think it would suit the reader who may lack the factual ww2 knowledge. As it is fully expanded upon. The factual and historical accuracy is superb! The central allied characters are likable and the Nazi characters are portrayed very much, on point with what we have come to know now, post ww2.
Colonel Noel Macrae and wife Primrose arrive at the British embassy in Berlin, to a new posting and new life. Only neither of them can predict how much, their time in Berlin will ultimately change who they are……
Macrae will begin work alongside Roger Halliday and David Buckland. They work for the ambassador Sir Nevile Henderson. The ambassador is a weak man, having spent far too long in Germany, cosying up to the Nazi elite. Nevile believes Germany and Hitler, do not want another war and that this is mere speculation. An evening meal is organised and they are warned to stay away from hotel Adlon. Where the journalist and racketeers thrive.
But what kind of diplomat, heeds every word of their bosses?
“There is always a price to pay for Peace” Nevile
The novel explores Macrae’s background and marriage. We learn that he is an experienced soldier in ww1 and is sniper trained. We also learn he has significant marital problems, with his wife stating they should each embark on affairs.
It isn’t long until Macrae is drawn to the Adlon.
At the Adlon, Macrae makes an acquaintance of Shirer an American journalist with CBS. He explores Berlin and the surrounding governmental buildings. I found that pre-war Berlin was brought alive on the page and that it felt very atmospheric, if not eerie to read. Through conversations with Halliday and Macrae’s old friend German Colonel Koening. We learn that Hitler is planning a military coup, to establish complete control of the military. Hitler is planning a purge.
But why would Hitler plan a purge, if he is not really to go to war?
Across town in Berlin, Joachim Bonner, Herdrich’s #2 is partly running the salon Kitty. A brothel disguised as a restaurant, where the sole attraction is Sara Sternschein. Sara was a university law student, until Hitler took power and ended her life as she knew it. She is now forced to be a prostitute at the salon. The Nazi’s coerced her into the role, with threats against her brother (Joseph being held at Buchenwald) and her mother. They use Sara, to literally turn ‘tricks’ on Nazi Elite. Enabling Heydrich to always stay one step ahead, of any competition. The chapters with her in, are sinister and eerie, the fact that she is so unemotional in her response to her plight, broke my heart!
“You know I always obey orders” Sara
When the military coup, becomes fact, Macrae is faced with informing the UK government. Nevile still persistent in his beliefs that this is not necessarily an act of war. I found Nevile very frustrating, but is this because I have the forth sight Nevile never could have had?
The history around this particular year, is fully detailed within the novel. We witness the effects of Hitler’s actions on all of the staff at the British embassy.
It isn’t long until Macrae, Halliday and Koening are plotting………
“I don’t want to be here. I can’t stand the place. It’s evil” Macrae
Bonner decides to have Sara turn her ‘trick’ on Macrae. But he hasn’t taken into account Sara’s own plotting. Life faced with ‘servicing’ the Nazi elite, must have been daily physical and emotional torture. Then Macrae and Sara finally meet………..
This novel really is an education on the ww2 era. The secrecy, lies and desperation for information, flows from the page.
This novel brings Berlin to life!