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Summary

The new novel from the author of the highly acclaimed The Butchers of Berlin, soon to be a TV series.

Berlin, July 1944, a world of illicit jazz clubs, sexually generous young women, suspect art dealers, last-ditch zealots and a city defined by crumbling infrastructure, advanced terror, dirty secrets and deep politics - and then there is August Schlegel, caught askance in a web of totalitarian mayhem.

Everybody knows what happened on 20 July: Führer Adolf Hitler miraculously survived an assassination attempt when a bomb failed to kill him. Schlegel, a reluctant employee of the Gestapo, finds himself in the foolhardy position of questioning the official version, knowing it is the last thing he should be thinking. Was it a propaganda stunt, or a deception, or was something more extreme going on, perhaps a cover-up connected to the mysterious burning down of a Berlin clinic? A deadly political dance takes Schlegel all the way up to Party Secretary Martin Bormann, the Chancellory’s sinister ‘black pope’. 

Information is controlled, informers are everywhere, secrecy remains the cornerstone of the regime, yet someone appears interested in digging up a carefully buried scandal in the Führer’s past private life, an incestuous affair with his young niece that ended mysteriously in 1931. Rumours circulate of a ‘Hitler confession’. 

Trapped in a kingdom of lies, Schlegel discovers the blighted present and a censored past are connected in ways he could never have imagined. The niece’s tragic end is intimately bound up with the fate of his long-lost father, whom Schlegel had always believed absconded to Argentina and died there, until he finds a private 1925 edition of Mein Kampf, dedicated to ‘Anton Schlegel’, signed, ‘In eternal gratitude, Adolf Hitler’. 

The identity of Schlegel’s father - and whether he is still alive and operating as a secret puppet master - becomes inseparable from the enigma of a shape-shifting Führer, going back to the early days when he was known to Anton Schlegel as Herr Wolf. 

Questioning the official version of events, Chris Petit offers a dazzling reinterpretation of history, showing how the deeper secret truths invariably turn out to be personal.

©2019 Chris Petit (P)2019 Simon & Schuster UK

Critic reviews

"No denying the book's power." (Nick Rennison, Sunday Times)

"The real skill of this rigorous, disturbing novel lies in the way Petit steadily and unsensationally allows his protagonists to discover the full horror of the hellhole they are in." (Guardian)

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Intelligent thriller

Based around Hitler’s relationship with his niece. Complex and intricate story of corruption and corrupt souls. A cast of satisfying villains and a hero who hardly deserves the label.

1 person found this helpful

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Yes yes yes

These guys just hold me, intrigue me and take to secret places where i never imagined I’d ever go.

The final sickening twist is perfect.

The plotting and charting extremely clever.

I noticed that Mr Corduners favourite character had some adjustment, which gave the white a haired hero to headbut some Nazi’s.

Keep it up. Write faster please!!

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Dark and Slow.

Not as riveting as the Butchers Of Berlin but a good twist on history. Worth the listen.... but not one to keep you turning pages till the end. Hope the next instalment is better.

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In one ear and out the other

This was terrible .The trashy porno gay stuff was beyond gratuitous. The storyline really weak. I gave up before the end.