Spanish author Gómez-Jurado’s third outing (Moses Expedition, 2010, etc.) offers a redeeming love story set against the unlikely background of extreme violence in Nazi Germany.
The story opens with a Spanish sea captain saving the lives of four strangers he finds lashed to a raft in a raging storm. After risking his own to bring the four on board, one steps forward and gives him a golden emblem, which the captain then passes down to his own son. Later, a man who tries to buy the emblem tells the son how the emblem came into his father’s hands. This is the meat of the novel. The story begins with Paul Reiner, who along with his mother, Ilse, lives with his cruel and calculating aunt and her husband, a baron. They have two sons, one who has gone off to fight for Germany in World War I, and the second, Jürgen, who is slightly older than Paul. Paul reveres the kind older brother, but the younger is a vicious child, who delights in tormenting his cousin and aunt, who both work as servants. Paul’s greatest sorrow is that he knows little of his father, who died when he was an infant. All he knows is his father has been called a traitor, but his mother worships her dead husband and still mourns him. When Jürgen attacks Paul after Paul defends the honor of a young Jewish girl, Alys Tannenbaum, both Paul and his mother flee for their lives. They move into a boarding house where Paul strikes out to find a job to keep them from starving and, against the background of a growing Nazi threat, eventually reunites with Alys, setting in motion a series of events that brings the evil Jürgen back into their lives.
The author tells a riveting love story, spoiled only by the unlikely incorporation of Freemasonry into the plot and a villain so evil he makes Hitler look like a pretty nice fellow.