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Traitor's Gate by Michael Ridpath

Traitor's Gate

by Michael Ridpath

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According to the author’s note at the end of the book, there was a Wehrmacht plot to assassinate Hitler in 1938. That event serves as the foundation for this novel. I hesitate to called it alternate history for reasons that will become obvious at the end.

The protagonist, Conrad is an idealist and a zealot. We first meet him during the Spanish Civil War where he and two other comrades have just shot three members of the Spanish brigade who were about to rape some nuns. The Catholic Church had always symbolized Nationalist repression. Unfortunately, they were recognized later by a fourth man whom Conrad had only nicked and later shoots both David and Harry in the back during a charge against the Fascists.

So right away several moral dichotomies are presented: did the members of the Spanish Brigade deserve to die to prevent the rape? Did Conrad and his friends deserve to die for killing their allies? Did their actions alter historical events?

Scene shift to several years later. Conrad is now heavily involved as go-between in a plot orchestrated by Admiral Canaris and some higher level German generals and the British government. All fear Hitler's foray into Czechoslovakia but for different reasons. You have to suspend some normal rational thinking as Conrad, speaking fluent German, seems to easily move in the higher levels of British government and, with his aristocratic German friend Theo, German generalship.

I prefer Ridpath’s Fire and Ice series of novels, but the book did hold my interest. ( )
  ecw0647 | Jan 1, 2015 |
I have liked all the other books by this author, so even though German war books aren't generally my thing I bought this one when it was released. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Yes, it's about the immediate build-up to WW2, set in Berlin and involving all the different German police and military organisations and lots of plotting and counter-plotting, but the story is told in terms of the people involved and their backgrounds, relationships and values. Perhaps predictably, one of the themes is of pre-war friends of different nationalities who find themselves in a position where they may be asked to try and kill each other should war break out. Still, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and the plot device works well here.

The first half of the book is building the story, setting the scene and getting the main protagonists into position ready to roll, and the second half, when it all starts to happen, is quite a ride. I found myself reading the last 100 pages when I should have been working. There are some story threads that fizzle out that I would have liked to see concluded (Veronica after the rally and the outcome of the tart-on-a-train episode), but it can be difficult to tidy everything up without being trite at the end of a book.

Overall this is a good thriller based on fact, which makes it more compelling. I recommend it.

And now, Mr Ridpath, will you please get a move on with Fire and Ice 4! ( )
  SamO4 | Jun 20, 2013 |
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Conrad de Lancey has seen enough of evil: the shadow of fear on the faces of innocents; the roar of tanks through empty streets; the sudden lull before the slaughter begins. Franco's bloody insurrection taught this Englishman all about hell. Arriving in his mother's country, the now Nazi Germany, Conrad is sick at heart. Even Berlin - infamous haven of decadence and vice - salutes fascism. Himmler's black-shirted troops rule the city, and every German arm bears a Swastika. But does every German heart belong to Hitler? When Conrad is arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of spying, he is rescued by Theo, an old friend from university, now a lieutenant of the Wehrmacht. Together they are drawn into a world of danger and deceit where the brave few are united by a single ambition: to free the fatherland from the Fuhrer.… (more)

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