Kudos to Anne Perry! She is not an author who rests on her laurels. Ms. Perry recently started a series with Daniel Pitt, son of long-term series regulars Thomas and Charlotte and now, she has started a series featuring Elena Standish. This novel takes place as Hitler is rising to power in Germany.
The characters in the family…Elena is an aspiring photographer. Her sister Margot was widowed shortly after marrying during WWI. Grandfather Lucas was in MI6 during WWI and maintains his connections. His wife, also was active in the war. Then there are Elena’s parents Charles and his wife Katherine. He is a diplomat; she is American. There are many characters not in the family, from the Jewish population in Berlin to the Brownshirts to those who are busy plotting and to Cordell at the British Embassy.
The settings in the novel are vividly described. The book opens in the shadow of Vesuvius where tourists are creating their reality, away from their daily concerns. It is here that Elena meets Ian, a man who sets her on a perilous mission. Thanks to Ms. Perry, i felt like I was on the train with them, right there in the compartment as the talked about themselves. There are so many equally vivid scenes. To mention a few, a British diplomat goes to lunch with Hitler and t he reader feels him sweating; a book burning takes place and the crowd watching is alive in the reader’s mind, a train hurtles toward Paris from Berlin and the reader feels the anxiety of the characters who need to escape quickly.
There are murders and conspiracies and Elena is clearly in peril. The plot does center on some coincidences but I was willing to accept that. The ending of the novel is a crescendo of events with a clear sense of unresolved issues for future novels or at least that is my hope.
I loved Death in Focus, a novel with rich and vivid characters who are trying to make their way in a world that was for ever changed by WW I and is now hurtling toward another war. There are some parallels to our world today in terms of the author’s description of how people who feel they have nothing, feel better when they have a group to hate.
I highly recommend this novel. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this e galley in exchange for my honest review.
“[Anne Perry] has found the perfect time period to showcase a family’s impassioned defense of democracy and social justice in the face of rising totalitarianism. . . . Obvious comparisons to Charles Todd’s Bess Crawford and Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs are warranted, but this novel also hearkens back to Helen MacInnes’s classic spy thrillers and Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels. At turns heartbreaking and action-packed, this gripping and superbly written story proves Perry still has what it takes.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Elena’s many narrow escapes and Perry’s immersive re-creation of Nazi-era Europe will keep readers enthralled by this series debut. The numerous characters working behind the scenes both for and against Elena—her beloved grandfather, for example, who is the former head of MI6—are well drawn, but it is the smart, gritty heroine herself who will ensure that readers eagerly anticipate the next in the series.”—Booklist