The day the Nazis march into Paris. It made headlines around the globe.
Paris police detective Eddie Giral – a survivor of the last World War – watches helplessly on as his world changes forever.
But there is something he still has control over. Finding whoever is responsible for the murder of four refugees. The unwanted dead, who no one wants to claim.
To do so, he must tread carefully between the Occupation and the Resistance, between truth and lies, between the man he is and the man he was.
All the while becoming whoever he must be to survive in this new and terrible order descending on his home.
My followers should know by now that I am a huge fan of WW2 historical crime fiction, I was kindly given a copy of Paris requiem by Orion Books, and before I read it, I wanted to read the first in the Eddie Giral novels by Chris Lloyd, The Unwanted Dead.
The Unwanted Dead is an absolute tour de force of a historical fiction novel. The opening chapter lets us meet our protagonist, Paris Police Detective Eddie Giral. It’s June 1940 and the Nazis have just waltzed into Paris and have taken over everything. For Eddie as a Detective in the French Police, this now means that he is working for the Nazis… however this does not sit well with him!
In The Unwanted Dead the reader is taken back in time into an immersive novel that is extraordinary in how it depicts life during the occupation of Paris. Eddie Giral is a fantastic character who I instantly grew to like – his use of sarcastic humour and comments to Nazi Officers had me laughing out loud! Chris Lloyd has managed to write with such realism that I really felt I was actually there by Eddies side during this complex but unputdownable thriller. The plot and storyline are exquisite and I can quite see why The Unwanted Dead won the HWA Gold Crown Award for Historical Fiction. To be able to transport the reader to another time is a real feat and to make it during the WW2 occupation in France is just brilliant.
I loved The Unwanted Dead and raced through it, it’s a great storyline and the plot is tense and vividly written! I especially liked how we got inside Eddie Girals mind and found out how he really felt trying to do his Detective job under increasing interference from his Nazi oppressors.
If you like WW2 fictional thrillers then I urge you to buy The Unwanted Dead, Im looking forward to reading the next in the series – Paris Requiem.
An extraordinary portrait of life at the heart of Heinrich Himmler’s court at the heart of the Nazi Regime.
In 1938, before the outbreak of the Second World War, Dr Felix Kersten an avuncular Finnish physician was introduced to Heinrich Himmler, the chief architect of the Holocaust. Seemingly the only person who could cure Himmler of his crippling stomach cramps, Kersten worked on Himmler’s vanity and gratitude Kersten to save the lives of thousands of people and was celebrated across Europe, culminating in Joseph Kessel’s 1961 bestseller, The Man with Miraculous Hands.
And yet, Kersten’s historical legacy is not flawless, and a new introduction by bestselling author Norman Ohler deals with the historical legacy of Kersten’s more exaggerated claims and asks directly why a man who had done so much good would risk damaging that reputation.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Woody Harrelson, The Man with Miraculous Hands is an extraordinarily revealing portrayal of the deranged atmosphere in Himmler’s court where paranoia and vicious rivalries reigned. Shedding a new light on the darkest days of the twentieth century, the story of Kersten’s life gives us a new way of viewing the history of the Second World War, one that goes beyond the simple idea of heroes and villains.
Hugest thanks to Elliott & Thompson for sending me a copy to review, I’m extremely grateful.
This book utterly blew my mind! It is the absolutely astonishing true story of Dr Felix Kersten, a Finnish Physician, who was introduced to Heinrich Himmler and was able to treat Himmler’s chronic stomach disorder throughout the Second World War in Germany.
Dr Felix Kersten was a rotund, gentle man who learnt his kraft of Chinese Style massage from Dr Ko, who took him on as a student because he saw the potential in his hands. He studied under him and inherited his practice and became a very sought-after Dr, who could cure all ailments with his miraculous hands.
The book reads like a thriller and had me absolutely gripped, I just could not put it down – the fact that I had never heard this story and how this mild-mannered, polite and jovial Dr Kersten managed to treat Himmler and then, in Himmler’s most vulnerable moments when he was in so much pain, and the only person that could alleviate that pain was Kersten, Dr Kersten was able to manipulate Himmler by playing to his ego, and in doing so saved the lives of many thousands of Jews and other prisoners. he was able to document his meetings with the Reichsfuhrer, and keep them so that in the years after the war Joseph Kessel met him and questioned him about these interactions that happened right in the Devils lair, inside Nazi Germany, indeed inside SS headquarters. And as I’ve said the tale is absolutely extraordinary!
The Man With The Miraculous Hands is an exceptionally well-written book, and I loved the way it felt like a thriller, the tension I felt reading about the events with Himmler and Dr Kersten and the goings on inside Nazi Germany, the thinking of one of the most heinous men in history – Himmler and all the paranoia that was felt by him and Dr Kersten, reads so well – when you think it’s true it is almost mind-blowing!
I have to rate this book with 5 stars, I really like reading about both World Wars and find novels or factual accounts from the German side very interesting. I whizzed through this book in a couple of days! If you like to learn about historical facts and are interested in WW2 this will be a must-read for you.
You can buy The Man With The Miraculous Hands HERE
You can find more books at Elliott & Thompson’s website HERE
For years, Reagan Carsen has kept her life offline. No socials. No internet presence. No photos. Safe.
Until the day she stumbles on a shocking murder in a Sydney laneway. The victim looks just like her. Coincidence?
As more murders shake the city and she’s increasingly drawn out from hiding, Reagan is forced to confront her greatest fear.
She’s been found.
A riveting psychological thriller drawn from true events, Dark Mode delves into the terrifying reality of the dark web, and the price we pay for surrendering our privacy one click at a time.
Firstly, huge thanks to James at Ultimo Press Uk for sending me a proof copy of Dark Mode.
I happened to see a post on Instagram from someone saying how brilliant Dark Mode was, so off i went to read the blurb…well as soon as i read it and saw that stunning cover i just knew this would be a bookbanger, and i was SO right!
The opening chapter sees us meet Reagan Carsen having a morning jog thru Sydney only to stumble across a dismembered body, left in full view in a lane…and strangely the body looks a lot like her!
And then Dark Mode just picks up a gear and runs! This is an absolutely exceptional novel, the writing is clear and flows like a silk scarf over your shoulders, it is sublime.
We travel thru the story with Reagan, who has kept her life offline for a pretty valid reason, up until now. She meets a nice chap called Bryce when she drives into the back of his car, and they start a freindship. With him, she becomes more trusting and gets a mobile phone, and in an effort to help kickstart her ailing Garden Centre, Voodo Lily Garden centre, Bryce helps her to post online photos of the plants and start an Instagram account, as she needs to start paying back the banks loan things start to pick up. BUT, and it is a big but, so do weird things, unsettling, chilling things start happening to Raegan and bodies start to appear and things get very very dark and heart-stoppingly bad for Raegan.
I am not going to give any more away about Dark Mode, but this will be one of THE books of 2023, it is a stunner! The attention to detail that Ms Bunt has written about the plants in the fictional Voodo Lilly Garden Centre is just marvelous (even for someone who is not Greenfingers like me!) … it had me googling to see what they actually looked like, although descriptions were precise and it was easy to visualise them. Add in the story of the Black Dahlia Murders from the 1930s and you have a near-perfect crime thriller. If like me you a lover of true crime as wellas the fictional type, then Dark Mode is going to tick all your boxes!
I cannot say enough about how brilliant a novel Dark Mode is, I was gripped, I was riveted, and I had my heart in my mouth! I bloody loved it! This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while! And I must also say that the cover art is absolutely spot on and gorgeous!
A 5-star read and if I could give more I would! Jude says its a BOOKBANGER!!
A mother disappears from a busy festival on a warm spring night.
Her baby lies alone in the pram, her mother’s possessions surrounding her, waiting for a return which never comes.
A year later, Kim Gillespie’s absence still casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather to welcome a new addition to the family.
Joining the celebrations on a rare break from work is federal investigator Aaron Falk, who begins to suspect that all is not as it seems.
As he looks into Kim’s case, long-held secrets and resentments begin to come to the fore, secrets that show that her community is not as close as it appears.
Falk will have to tread carefully if he is to expose the dark fractures at its heart, but sometimes it takes an outsider to get to the truth. . .
An outstanding novel, a brilliant mystery and a heart-pounding read from the author of The Dry, Force of Nature, The Lost Man and The Survivors.
As a huge fan of Jane Harper’s work, I couldn’t wait to get into the latest Aaron Falk novel, Exiles.
This one is slightly different to all the others, it is a slower burn but that’s because we are following the events of Aaron Falk’s life much more closely. There are also running in the background two monumental events that rock the community that Aaron finds himself drawn to. The skill that Jane Harper writes about small-town life in the outback of Australia is so sublime, it makes you feel like you are really there, with the huge views and sights and smells of the bushland.
The story is really very good and I must say it’s actually quite nice to find a book concentrating on the effects of mysterious deaths on the relatives that are left behind. Jane Harper has managed to convey this extremely well in Exiles. The plot is medium paced but all along you can feel that something is bubbling along and when we do get the climactic ending, it’s a mindblower and I did not guess until the very last minute what the outcome would be!
So my rating overall for Exiles will be a 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read, I am a committed Jane Harper fan, and I adore these outback novels. If you want a gripping read that is deep with emotion and with an undercurrent of an edgy thriller then Exiles will be the novel for you.
Jen is climbing in the mountains near Alajar, Spain. And it’s nothing to do with the fact that an old acquaintance, Nick Crawford, may have suggested that she meet him there...
But when things don’t go as planned with Nick and her brother calls to voice concerns over the whereabouts of Morwenna – their estranged, free-spirited mother – Jen winds up travelling to a refugee camp on the south coast of Malta.
Morwenna is working with a small non-governmental organization to help her Libyan friend, Nahla, seek asylum for herself and her two young children. Jen is instantly out of her depth, surrounded by stories of unimaginable suffering and increasing tensions within the camp. Then Nahla recognises someone else from Libya – and ends up dead later that same day.
Jen and Morwenna find themselves responsible for the safety of Nahla’s daughters. But what if the safest thing to do is to get in a boat?
Judefire33 Star rating 4.5 Stars
Firstly Thank you so much to Verve books for inviting me to the Blog Tour and sending me a copy of Cut Adrift.
Cut Adrift carries on where On The Edge finished, in that Jen Shaw is now in Spain, resting and recuperating after the adventures and danger she met in the first novel, in Cornwall.
Cut Adrift starts slowly with Jen deciding to have some fun climbing and travelling in her hired camper van, however, her last lover has sent her a mysterious postcard and asked her to meet her in a bar in Alajar by simply saying “wish you were here”, after some internal struggles Jen decides to go and see if Nick Grimshaw will be waiting for her. What follows is a time of fun, and romance for them both, before this is shattered by Nick having to leave immediately for work and also the news that Jen’s Mum, Morwenna needs to be contacted as her husband (Jen’s Dad) is going to sell the family home, Tregonna in Cornwall and the only one to stop it is Morwenna. The last she was heard of she was in Malta, so Jen makes for malta hoping to find her Mum and talk her into going to a solicitor and stopping the sale of their beloved home.
From then on Cut Adrift picks up the pace as we enter a world (that is extremely well-written and researched) of refugees. Jen and her Mum get caught up in a terrible round of events, including the murder of Nahla, Morwenna’s refugee friend. They are then thrown into a dangerous world and have to fight and run with Nahla’s two children, from people traffickers, killers and terrorists all of who want nothing more than to use the children in the most abhorrent way possible, from this pit on Cut Adrift is an anxiety-ridden ride and one that kept me up at night.
The plot and storyline are very well written, and I was totally hooked into the world unknown to me but that read so realistic of refugees and the dangers they face even when we think they are in Europe and safe. A terrible journey that they face from leaving their home countries, to getting to a safe country where they will be looked after and not become a target for criminals of all sorts.
The concluding chapters were super fast-paced and I was totally immersed, Jane Jesmond has done well to write with such clarity of the fear and anxiety that these poor people face, and entwining this into the lives of Jen Shaw and her Mum Morwenna, is brilliant. Their fight to save and bring two traumatized little girls back to Cornwall is truly heroic and full of danger at every turn, they don’t know who to trust!
The ending was brilliant, but you know, Ik not giving anything away! The writing is beautiful at times with the descriptions of the places we travel to in Cut Adrift. And there are some scary and visceral scenes on the high seas in a yacht, that for me triggered my PTSD (I had to leave a cruise as I was so frightened after being in Force 9 seas), but although this was difficult for me, it’s down to the excellent writing of Jane Jesmond that made me relive it!
An enthralling, tense, adventure and thrilling read hence my score of 4.5 stars.
ON THE TOUGHEST REALITY SHOW ON TELEVISION A KILLER IS HIDING OUT OF SHOT
Frozen Out is set to be a TV sensation. On a small ship off the coast of Greenland, eight contestants will push themselves to breaking point for a £100,000 prize.
The show is Tori Matsuka’s baby. After years working her way up the ladder, she’s finally launching her own production company with Frozen Out, and the late nights, the debts, the strain on her relationship will all be worthwhile. Everything is riding on the next twelve days. For camerawoman Dee, it’s a chance to start again after the tragedy that tanked her undercover journalism career. Not even Tori, her oldest friend, knows the full truth of why Dee left her previous job, and she plans to keep it that way.
But as errors and mishaps mount on set, tempers among the cast and crew start to fray. And when one of the contestants is found dead, only Dee realises the death wasn’t natural – and from what she’s seen from behind the camera, it won’t be the last. As the Arctic ice closes in around them and all chance of escape is cut off, it becomes clear that although the world outside wants them dead, it’s the secrets inside the ship that might cost them their lives.
Packed with suspense from the first page to the last, Freeze is a must-read for fans of Shiver, The Sanatorium and One By One. This thriller isn’t just chilling: it’s sub-zero.
Judefire33 star rating for Freeze
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Firstly huge thanks to Robert Greer for very kindly sending me a copy of Freeze.
When I saw the cover of Freeze, I just knew this would be a book for me….isn’t it strange that! Well, I finally got around to reading Freeze at the weekend and here are my thoughts.
From the opening prologue, you can feel the tension in Kate Simants writing virtually crackle off the pages! We start with a scene in the past that involves a boy and a girl and an event that with every turn and decision the girl makes in the future, it ripples outwards and affects her and others’ lives.
This will be a hard review to write as I am loath to give any of the plots away, but the setting is a reality-type show – think I’m a celebrity get me out of here but set on a ship in the Arctic Circle so that the elements are already part of the dangers that contestants face without tasks thrown in as well!.
The setting is superb, its bleak, empty and its bloody cold (I know I’ve been inside the Artic Circle in Winter!), and the ship that they are on is immensely claustrophobic and with the tensions that arise from the cast of characters this just sizzles and as a reader, I was utterly gripped and almost couldn’t read fast enough!
The cast of characters is fantastic a great mixture, that as the novel goes on, opens up and reveals things central to the plot -some are lovely and I wanted to be their pals, some are horrid and I hated them! But I loved the way we get each chapter from the two main protagonists of Dee and Tori, the writing of Freeze is truly slick and I found it so easy to gorge myself on the chapters, and I read Freeze over 3 days.
The climax was thrilling and had my palms sweating and my internal voice shouting! Freeze is a really well-written thriller, I found it an easy and quick read, but the story is full and complex, I just gorged myself on it!
If you like locked-room-style thrillers, and books set in snowy ice-laden landscapes that will chill and thrill you with a splatter of creepiness thrown in then Freeze needs to be on your radar to purchase.
A superbly written chilling thriller, my rating 5 stars.
A severed head is displayed on a stake. A crime so dark only one man is capable of solving it: Police Inspector William Wisting.
Before long, more bodies are found. Media frenzy sweeps the locals into a panic. And when Wisting’s investigation leads him to a deadly underground crime ring, he fears the whole town may be in danger.
But at the heart of it is just one man: The Night Man.
Their elusive leader. The man Wisting must find if he wants to stop the murders.
That is if The Night Man doesn’t get to him first . . .
As all my followers know, Jorn Lier Horst and Wisting are on the top of my favorite author and character list, so as always I was looking forward to reading The Night Man.
I have all the Wisting books that have been published in English and have read them all in the order that they have originally been published in Norway, However, The Night Man is actually book 5 in the series, so therefore it does read a little out of sync. This is my only minus point and I think that it should be made clear before readers dive in.
That said, the story and plot is excellent as always, the way Jorn Lier Horst writes the police procedural side is always so true to life ( something to do with him being a Detective with the Norweigian Police before becoming a novelist ), and I love that we get so deep into Wisting’s psyche with every book in the series. I don’t know why but I just really feel so much warmth for William Wisting as a character, he is such a lovely thoughtful Detective, who always goes to the ends of the earth for the victims of crime. He isn’t perfect, his relationship with his son, Thomas isn’t the best, but he is close to his daughter, Line who I also love… she is a journalist and has her father’s curious and analytical mind. From reading the first book in the Wisting series I totally fell in love with William, that is definitely down to the skilful writing of Jorn Lier Horst, and as an added bonus being set in my favourite Country, Norway, makes these one of my favourite reads.
Line features quite heavily in The Night Man, and as I’ve said it’s strange reading about what’s happening to her as this book is in the last compared to the last read of A Question Of Guilt. But her character is so well written by Jorn, I always find it amazing how male authors can portray female protagonists so well.I love Line to as she is an inquisitive and kick ass journalist, who won’t let things go….however sometimes this can mean trouble can find her!
The storyline follows the discovery of a child’s severed head on a post in the middle of Larvik, Norway. There are some quite gory descriptions of this that made my skin crawl haha, but that’s one of the reasons I adore Crime Fiction. We follow Wisting and his team on a journey through drugs and child exploitation from Europe to Afghanistan, on a quest to find the killer or killers.
The detail Jorn Lier Horst writes in his books is what always stays with me, the descriptions of the settings, the food being eaten, the insides of Norweigian homes, all are exquisite and totally make The Night Man sing with realism.
The ending leaves the reader wanting, but as I’ve said if you were to read the Wisting series in order – the next book being Dregs – it actually makes more sense. But as I love Wisting and also Jorn Lier Horst, it didn’t matter to me. It was a great read and another added to my collection. To help new readers I will list the Wisting series in order for you –
Key Witness (Org. Nøkkelvitnet, 2004)
Disappearance of Felicia (Org. Felicia forsvant, 2005)
When the Sea Calms (Org. Når havet stilner, 2006)
The Only One (Org. Den eneste ene, 2007)
The Night Man (Org. Nattmannen, 2009) – translated into English July 2022
Dregs (Org. Bunnfall, 2010) – translated into English by Anne Bruce, 2011
Closed for Winter (Org. Vinterstengt, 2011) – translated into English 2013
The Hunting Dogs (Org. Jakthundene, 2012) – translated into English 2014
The Caveman (Org. Hulemannen, 2013) – translated into English 2015
Ordeal (Org. Blindgang, 2015) – translated into English 2016
When It Grows Dark (Org. Når Det Mørkner, 2016) – translated into English 2016 (A prequel to the series.)
The Katharina Code (Org. Katharina-koden, 2017) – translated into English 2018
The Cabin (Org. Det innerste rommet, 2018) – translated into English 2019
The Inner Darkness (Org. Illvilje, 2019)- translated into English 2020
A Question of Guilt (Org. Sak 1569, 2020)- translated into English 2021
Boundless (Org. Grenseløs, 2021)
The traitor (Org. Forræderen, 2022)
I hope that this helps those readers who haven’t yet ventured into the Wisting series by Jorn Lier Horst, if you want to read gripping, tense, exceptionally well written police procedurals and thrillers, then I urge you to start collecting and reading this series.
I will also add that all the Wisting novels are written in Norwegian first, then translated into English, this is done so well, that one really doesn’t know they were not written in English first!
So my score is a sound 4 stars, and as always I wait for the next Wisting book to be translated into English!
BERLIN. JANUARY 1941. Evil cannot bring about good . . .
After Germany’s invasion of Poland, the world is holding its breath and hoping for peace. At home, the Nazi Party’s hold on power is absolute.
One freezing night, an SS doctor and his wife return from an evening mingling with their fellow Nazis at the concert hall. By the time the sun rises, the doctor will be lying lifeless in a pool of blood.
Was it murder or suicide? Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is told that under no circumstances should he investigate. The doctor’s widow, however, is convinced her husband was the target of a hit. But why would anyone murder an apparently obscure doctor? Compelled to dig deeper, Schenke learns of the mysterious death of a child. The cases seem unconnected, but soon chilling links begin to emerge that point to a terrifying secret.
Even in times of war, under a ruthless regime, there are places in hell no man should ever enter. And Schenke fears he may not return alive . . .
Thank you so much to Jess Hunt from Ransom PR for inviting me to the Dead Of Night blog tour and sending me a copy of the book.
As I knew Dead Of Night was book 2 in the Berlin Wartime Series by Simon Scarrow, I decided to read Blackout ( book 1 ) first. And I’m so glad I did, as Blackout is a fantastic opener to the Kripo Inspector Horst Schenke series.
The story for Dead Of Night is set during the coldest of winters January/February 1940… and from the first page, the reader knows they are in for a thrilling read amongst the politics, in-house fighting, and mistrust of Berlin during the early days of WW2 and the rise in Nazism.
The way that Simon Scarrow writes is utterly compelling, he’s like my favorite History Teacher, because although Dead Of Night is a work of fiction, it is based on truth, and in his exceptional style, taught me to look at how working and living in Berlin under the threat of Hitler and his SS henchmen when one is just trying to do one’s job, becomes a minefield of difficulty. In our protagonist, Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke, we have a man who cannot fight due to an injury sustained whilst racing for the famous Silver Arrows Racing Team, so he has risen to the rank of Criminal Inspector with the Kripos, and he loves his job, and just wants to keep fighting the criminals, murderers and rapists and make sure they are caught and punished….sounds simple right? But during wartime in Berlin, nothing is simple, no one trusts one another, and Horst finds himself embroiled in a case that he has been warned off investigating, and when he continues to do so puts himself and those he cares about in grave danger.
I’m not going to give any more of the plot away, but let’s just say the speed of Dead Of Night and the storyline, are thrilling and utterly gripping, you will not be able to put it down. It also had me heading across to Google on several occasions to find out more about topics and people ( there are real Nazis in the books ) so as to add to the story.
If you haven’t read Blackout before you start Dead of Night, I would urge you to – it runs closely after the storyline in Blackout and several characters as important to the storyline and plot in Dead Of Night.
I loved Dead Of Night so much, and am a firm fan of The Berlin Wartime series by Simon Scarrow, I actually feel utterly sad now I’ve finished Dead Of Night! And that, my friends, is the sign of a superb book!
If you like thrillers and Police Procedurals set during WW2, then Dead Of Night is definitely for you, the research Simon Scarrow puts into his work makes for such a visceral and realistic read, and it’s refreshing to have a different point of view with a Police Inspector who is German.
An easy 5-star rating for Dead Of Night and also for Blackout. I cannot wait for book 3!
Simon Scarrow is a Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author with several million copies of his books sold worldwide. After a childhood spent travelling the world, he pursued his great love of history as a teacher, before becoming a full-time writer. His Roman soldier heroes Cato and Macro made their debut in 2000 in UNDER THE EAGLE and have subsequently appeared in many bestsellers in the Eagles of the Empire series, including CENTURION, INVICTUS and DAY OF THE CAESARS. Many of the series have been Sunday Times bestsellers.
Simon Scarrow is also the author of a quartet of novels about the lives of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte, YOUNG BLOODS, THE GENERALS, FIRE AND SWORD and THE FIELDS OF DEATH; a novel about the 1565 Siege of Malta, SWORD & SCIMITAR; HEARTS OF STONE, set in Greece during the Second World War; and PLAYING WITH DEATH, a contemporary thriller written with Lee Francis. He also wrote the novels ARENA and INVADER with T. J. Andrews. His thriller, BLACKOUT set in WW2 Berlin and first published in 2021 was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick.
The inspiration for ‘Dead of Night’ (in Simon Scarrow’s own words)
When I research the period covering the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, it is sometimes hard to believe the bald statistics concerning the number of people murdered by the regime, nor is it easy to comprehend the cold-blooded manner in which those responsible went about it. Sometimes the sheer scale and breadth of the horrors inflicted by the Nazis is almost impossible to contemplate, and it is necessary to break the atrocity down in a way that allows people to connect with the victims in a more personal and empathetic way. That was the approach I took with this novel.
In order to understand what became known after the war as the Aktion T4 programme, it is necessary to realise that this mass murder policy was the result of many years of conscious preparation, drawing on influences much wider than those located in Germany. A perversion of Darwin’s theories of evolution gave rise to a growing number of works by scientists and pseudo-scientists advocating the removal of ‘defective’ humans in order to take them out of the chain of heredity and thereby ‘improve’ humankind. Such notions were eagerly taken up across Europe and in the Americas and provided febrile encouragement to the political programme of Adolf Hitler and his followers as early as the mid-1920s, when Hitler was already advocating the elimination of those he regarded as ‘degenerates’ (‘degeneriert’).
When the Nazi party seized power in 1933, they wasted no time in imposing their ideology on Germany. Besides the suppression of the media, the arrest, torture and murder of political rivals and the removal of Jewish civil rights, one of the first measures put in place was compulsory sterilization of certain groups. This was imposed on a wide range of those deemed degenerate: gypsies, prostitutes, the work-shy, habitual criminals, mixed-race people and those with incurable mental and physical disabilities. That same July, Hitler intended to pass laws to enable the killing of patients diagnosed with mental illness but was persuaded that such a move was too controversial. Even so, in 1935 he let it be known that, in the event of war, he would introduce such a measure, since the public’s attention would be elsewhere and, in any case, in time of war, a few extra deaths would be easily missed amongst so many others. From 1937 a secret committee of the Nazi party was making plans for a euthanasia programme, seeding the notion through sympathetic articles in the Nazi-controlled press that portrayed the lives of people with disabilities as ‘life not worthy of life’ (‘Lebensunwertes Leben’).
The programme was activated in February 1939 when the father of Gerhard Kretschmar, a boy born with missing limbs, petitioned Hitler to have his son killed. The father had already approached a doctor in Leipzig asking him to end Gerhard’s life but the doctor had refused on the basis that he might as a result be charged with murder. Having reviewed the case, Hitler sent his personal doctor, Karl Brandt, to arrange the murder of the child at the end of July. At the same time Hitler authorised Brandt to oversee the creation of a euthanasia programme. A month later, Hitler put an end to the sterilization program. Things had moved on from preventing reproduction by the ‘degenerates’ to eliminating them altogether. In October, Hitler signed an order empowering doctors to rid society of ‘useless eaters’ (‘unnütze esser’) by granting them a ‘merciful death’ (‘barmherziger Tod’).
The programme was the responsibility of the Reich Committee for Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses, whose structure and purpose were kept secret from the general public. The overall head of the programme was Philipp Bouhler, an SS officer, and one of the first members of the Nazi party. The section of the programme concerned with children was under the control of an SS doctor, Viktor Brack, and based at Tiergartenstrasse 4, from which the later name Aktion T4 derives. From the start the emphasis of the programme was on killing, not children already in institutions, but those who were still living at home with their families, before moving on to the elimination of those already institutionalised. Parents were coaxed by doctors to entrust their children to institutions where they would, supposedly, be better cared for. Once the children had been removed from their homes, they were subjected to various treatments ultimately intended to kill them. Some were injected with drugs that would progressively weaken them, while others were starved to death. Their deaths were passed off as the result of natural causes. Often, the bodies were cremated to destroy the evidence, and the parents were only then sent news of the death of their child. Considerable efforts were taken to conceal the scale of the killings; for example Brack’s officials kept a map in their office with pins placed in it for each child, to ensure there were not any suspicious clusters and that the victims were evenly spread out.
Very soon there was pressure to increase the numbers of those being eliminated. The German forces in Poland had already been engaged in mass murder of patients with mental illnesses of all ages, and had first started using poison gas on Polish inmates transported to Posen. Chemical expert Albert Widmann was brought in from the Kripo’s forensic department to develop the most effective and efficient means of using gas (at this point carbon monoxide) to murder people, or, as they were described to him, ‘beasts in human form’. Widmann oversaw the construction of a test unit at Brandenburg prison, where patients diagnosed with mental illness were gassed in batches of fifteen to twenty. The process took approximately twenty minutes to kill them.
The programme was rapidly expanded across Germany and for some time it was kept secret from those not directly involved. But suspicion began to be aroused when the number of deaths in institutions for those with particular illnesses and conditions swiftly climbed and a number of doctors, coroners, judges and Catholic priests began to protest. The American journalist William Shirer was aware of the programme very early on, but only had concrete proof of its existence when he was contacted by a conscience-stricken official with the details in September 1940. Nonetheless, by a combination of denial, distraction, threats and ideological justification, the Nazi regime managed to prevent any effective opposition to the programme. By the end of the war, more than 80,000 people with disabilities had been murdered, over 5,000 of them children.
While the Holocaust is the most notorious crime committed by the Nazi party, it was through the euthanasia program that the Nazis first experimented with then perfected the means by which vast numbers of Jews, political opponents, gypsies, homosexuals and other victims were subsequently murdered. It was on the bodies of those helpless children that the most terrible atrocity of the twentieth century was built.
What was the fate of those responsible? Philipp Bouhler was captured by the Americans then committed suicide. Karl Brandt was tried and hanged in 1948, as was Viktor Brack. Albert Widmann escaped justice until 1959, when he was finally tried for his part in the programme and sentenced to six years in prison. He died in 1986. Even after the war, many of the doctors involved in the programme expressed their pride in what they portrayed as a process intended to improve the human race. In truth, all the above were the real ‘beasts in human form’.
It is worth remembering that the Nazis were not alone in imposing compulsory sterilization. As mentioned earlier, the cause of improving racial purity had gained advocates in many countries. Between the 1907 and 1939 the USA carried out over 60,000 compulsory sterilizations. In Europe, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway also embarked on similar programmes in the 1930s. In the case of Sweden, between 1935 and 1975, over 63,000 compulsory sterilizations took place. That is proportionately more, taking account of the relative populations, than Nazi Germany’s 350,000. It is clear that some seeds of Nazi Germany’s racial policies were sown in many other nations who were influenced by eugenics advocates from both ends of the political spectrum. We should not be so complacent as to assume that what happened in Nazi Germany could not be replicated somewhere else at another time.
I am sure that most people reading this account of the Aktion T4 programme will share my despair that such things are possible. How could such inhumanity as that underlying the Aktion T4 programme and the Holocaust have existed on so vast a scale? I can think of no greater horror than the fate of the vulnerable children who were murdered in cold blood by the Nazis.
When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end.
Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.
Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.
As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.
Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.
Firstly huge thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for kindly sending me a copy.
I went into So Pretty with an open mind, I hadn’t really read much about this novel so when I started reading it, well let’s just say, from the outset unsettled me!
The opening page is the advert above, and Berry & Vincent’s shop is where most of the action takes place.
We follow the story from 2 points of view- Teddy, the son of a notorious serial killer, and Ada, a single Mum of Albie, trying to rise him away from an unloving Mother. Both are inherently lonely and lost, and both are damaged humans, from upbringings and well, life’s hand that they’ve been dealt.
The story starts slowly and builds with each page that you turn, in the small seaside town of Rye, on the South Coast of the UK. We learn things about both Teddy and Ada as we start reading through So Pretty, and the more you read the more creepy, gothic, and frankly bloody terrifying the novel becomes.
I really do not want to give away any of the explosive and utterly thrilling plots, but I will tell you once you start reading, you will not be able to put So Pretty down. And the darkness that lies in the quaint and beautiful Rye, will eek itself into your mind and give you sleepless nights! the way that Ronnie Turner has observed the minds of both Teddy and Ada and has then been able to express this in her writing is frankly a marvel! Her skill at making the reader feel very uncomfortable and unsettled is amazing. So Pretty is a dark, psychological thriller with short snappy chapters that are written in an almost poetic style, and each one will give you that creepy feeling of a gothic horror novel. And it culminates into a frankly terrifying and page-turning conclusion.
This is Ronnie Turner’s first novel and it is a total book banger, another superb find by Orenda books. I look forward to reading her next novel and having sleepless nights!
Scott Jericho thought he’d worked his last case. Fresh out of jail, the disgraced former detective is forced to seek refuge with the fairground family he once rejected.
Then a series of bizarre murders comes to light – deaths that echo a century-old fairground legend. The police can’t connect the victims. But Jericho knows how the legend goes; that more murders are certain to follow.
As Jericho unpicks the deadly mystery, a terrifying question haunts him. As a direct descendant of one of the victims in the legend, is Jericho next on the killer’s list?
From the award-winning author of The Outrage comes Killing Jericho, the gothic, helter-skelter thriller debut that introduces crime fiction’s first ever Traveller detective, Scott Jericho
Firstly a huge thank you to Abi at Bonnier PR for sending me a proof copy of Killing Jericho.
I can’t remember where I first saw the talk of Killing Jericho by William Hussey but as soon as I saw the cover, I just knew it was a book I needed to read and I’m so glad I have!
And from the very opening pages I was hooked! Killing Jericho is an absolutely unique and ground-breaking crime thriller. Not only is our main protagonist, Scott Jericho, a Traveller but he is also Gay, plus he used to be in the Police! The latter 2 things do not sit well within the Traveler society, but William Hussey has managed to describe exactly the impact on Scott Jericho’s life, that this has had and how fabulous to read a crime thriller AND learn about a section of our society that often sees prejudices and misconceptions. We meet Scott while he is living in a trailer at his dad’s traveling fairground. There has never been a Traveller detective in fiction until now, and in Scott Jericho, we have an amazing main character, he is damaged by his past but has the rare skill of being able to read people with aplomb, he is a complex but ultimately loveable character, I’ve fallen for him from this, the first book in an (i hope long!) series!
The plot and storyline are also superb, I’m not going to give too much away but it revolves around some seemingly unconnected killings, that seem to be connected to a century-old fairground legend. there is a marvelous array of characters, which really makes Killing Jericho a vibrant and lively novel, but the theme running through, death and murder, is almost gothic in its intensity.
Killing Jericho needs to be on every crime fiction fans list, it is written extremely well by William Hussey, you can feel his love and passion for his people (the son of a traveling showman himself) and it is an important book within the traveling community and also the LGQBT+ community, and I really hope that Killing Jericho wins prizes and gets the recognition that is so deserved. I’m almost welling up writing this because I really cannot explain how much I adore Killing Jericho, I’ve read many crime fiction books, but this one is a real gem, and I feel honored to be able to review it! I was gripped from the first page, and the plot is excellent, culminating in a hugely surprising ending (which I did not see coming!)
I am left bereft now I’ve finished Killing Jericho! I hope that we don’t have to wait too long for book two! A stunning and masterful read from a hugely talented author. Absolutely fabulous and unique 5-star read from me.