Hitler's Peace

Hitler's Peace

Author
Philip Kerr
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
Hitler’s Peace' by the late Philip Kerr was first published in 2005 in the US. It has now been published for the UK market some fifteen years later, two years after the author’s death.

Perhaps best known in the UK for his Bernie Gunther series of detective thrillers set in 1930s-1950s Berlin, ‘Hitler’s Peace’ sees Kerr create an alternative history for the latter months of 1943, building toward a climax at the meeting of ‘The Big Three’ in Tehran.

Willard Mayer, a half-Jewish German-American and erstwhile Philosophy Professor, is serving the war effort as a intelligence analyst when he is taken into the confidence of President Roosevelt. After investigating the massacre of Poles in the Katyn Forest, the president insists on creating a position for Mayer to accompany him to the meeting in Tehran, for reasons that eventually become clear. The story develops with Mayer as first person narrator in the chapters dealing with the Allies, though woven in and around these are chapters concerning the Germans, which are told in a different style with a third person narrator, and Walter Schellenberg as the main focus. Though the third person narrator doesn’t appear to be truly omniscient, the thoughts of some other characters (notably von Ribbentrop and Himmler) are also included. At first I confess to not particularly liking the change in narration styles, but recognise that due to the nature of the story, it is the best choice.

As expected from a novel by Kerr, there is plenty going on. As the story develops into what may best be described as a spy thriller, it is clear that the main players are all hiding things from one another, and from their own people. The plotting is tight although there were one or two little scenes where a real-life character seemed to have been included with little service to the narrative (the inclusion of the Cambridge Spies being one such instance) although, as I fully admit not to being a history buff, one of the stranger episodes turns out to be based on real events (Kerr has included a list at the end of the book detailing the true events).

Alternative histories are not usually my cup of tea though I found this enjoyable enough. The ending was very satisfying and, once I had got over the need to google every German character to see how they fitted in to real life, it was a very easy read. It will appeal to fans of Kerr, of alternative histories and spy novels.

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