The world’s most powerful countries clash in the final days of World War II in this debut historical novel.
Watson, a retired Army intelligence officer, recounts the events of August 1945 through the eyes of American, Russian, and British leaders as well as soldiers and spies on all sides. The chapters and sections, each helpfully labeled with dates and locations, show how the politics and espionage of the last days of World War II helped sow the seeds of the Cold War. Stalin’s hunger for power and absolute control over his army are contrasted with the British and Americans’ war-weariness and complacency. Gen. George S. Patton and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery are forced to work together again, despite their radically different personalities, in the face of a danger few recognize. Soldiers from each of the once-allied countries are thrown back onto the battlefield before they’ve finished celebrating victory, but this arena quickly proves itself to be very different from the one they left. Meanwhile, Soviet leaders attempt the unenviable task of carrying out Stalin’s orders perfectly, no matter how ill-advised, and avoiding execution. And looming in the background is the ever present specter of the newly created atomic bomb, a weapon with the power to turn a political dispute into a world-ending war. The action in this book, the first in a planned series, is confined to the period between Aug. 9 and 28 in 1945, but it’s detailed enough to fill more than 300 pages. Well-researched and fast-paced, the historical narrative truly reads like a novel, with an abundance of colorful characters both real and fictional. But it is hampered by ubiquitous typos (a “gAllent charge,” an “aboroginal term,” etc.) and awkward dialogue that often reads more like a history textbook than people speaking. The author often has characters use random Russian or German words in contexts where they are already understood to be speaking those languages or makes them spill out historical exposition for no clear reason. This method will likely take the reader out of the story.
While swiftly paced with vivid characters, this saga set in August 1945 lacks realistic dialogue.