“Black Roses” by Jane Thynne – set in Germany in 1935 and full of menace and tension

Black Roses by Jane Thynne is a story set in pre-war (WW2) Germany. Clara Vine is an aspiring actress who is drawn to Germany in 1935. Her father is a minor British aristocrat and her mother is German. Clara has been encouraged to travel to Germany to be part of the growing film industry in the country.

As Clara tries to find her way and a part to play she is befriended by some of the women married to senior men in Hitler’s government and asked to be part of a fashion initiative they are developing to find appropriate clothes for the women of Germany. She also finds herself asked to undertake a clandestine mission on behalf of one woman and is drawn into passing information to an agent at the British embassy.

This is a novel set at a very interesting time in European history. We know what will happen but the characters don’t and we see through Clara’s eyes, as an outsider, how the menace begins to grow and freedoms become curtailed. We also understand how little power the ordinary person had to do anything about the situation. Clara becomes drawn into intelligence work because what she sees disgusts and frightens her and she is accepted by the high ranking women because her father is a Nazi sympathiser, something which she has only just realised.

I thought that this novel was well done and I enjoyed the plot (some of which is based loosely on things which did happen to the real life characters). I liked the way that the author built the tension and menace and showed us how the realisation of what was happening to their fellow countrymen came so slowly to some.

I was going to comment on how this novel mirrors much of what we read in Philip Kerr’s early Bernie Gunther novels and is an a similar style but then I read that the two authors were married which explains much of that. You can read my reviews of two of Philip Kerr’s novels set in Germany before WW2 here and here.

I’m not a great reader of historical novels but I did enjoy this one and I gather that there is a series of books featuring the same main character which I hadn’t realised when I started.

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