Philip Kerr has featured in my 12 in 12 Challenge before with his books featuring Bernie Gunther and set just before WW2. I have read and reviewed two of them and am currently reading my way through the series. The book I am reading for July’s challenge, however, is Hitler’s Peace which is a stand-alone novel set in 1943 which reimagines the Tehran meeting between France, America and Britain to also include Hitler who wants peace as it is becoming obvious that Germany will not win the war.
The premise is interesting. I have read another alternative history book about WW2 by Robert Harris called Fatherland which is brilliant and imagines a world in which Germany has won the war and is set in the 1960s. Considering how much I have enjoyed Philip Kerr’s other books I had expected a really gripping and challenging story along the same lines. Sadly, it wasn’t as good as I had wished.
The first problem is that I really don’t know much about the Tehran conference so I was never sure what was real and what wasn’t. The second problem was that there were far too many characters in the story. For the first quarter of the book it was difficult to know who the main character was. The book eventually focussed on Willard Mayer who is an intelligence officer and aide to FD Roosevelt at the conference and by half way through the narrative was mainly concentrating on him and his attempts to tackle suspected enemy action and spying around the conference.
Once the book concentrated on the action and on Mayer as the main character then the story became a lot easier to follow and the plot began to grip me. I still think, however, that there were too many people involved in the story which may have been historically accurate but didn’t make for an easy narrative. Mayer is, as you would expect from this writer, not always a sympathetic character and he is also a philosopher so he looked at things differently from others.
I also read a book set during the Munich conference as part of this month’s challenge. You can read a review of that here. There is a lot of similarity between what the two authors are trying to achieve but Robert Harris pulls it off much better in my opinion.
Hitler’s Peace is not a bad book but it did have some flaws that impeded the enjoyment for me. There were too many characters, the pace was slow, there was too much philosophising for me and I really didn’t understand enough of the context. On the other hand, the author has had a good idea and it is intriguing to think about what might have happened, Mayer is an engaging character, and there is some very clever plotting. Once the book got going I enjoyed it enough and was eager to find out what happened.