A compelling book, though not a pleasant one. The story is set in the haunted days following V-E day, when a young English P.O.W. and his buddy escape their East Prussian camp for the safety of the Elbe's further shore, a countryside neither at war nor peace, apprehensive of its half-Asiatic conquerors. In the hamlet of Tannenwalde, they come upon an unusual commandant in Nicolai, who-between stiff drinking bouts - treats his charges, the villagers, with human understanding. When a pocket of the Wehrmacht blocks Johnny Clay and Guy Rankin's progress towards the American lines, Nicolai quarters them in the house of Herr Kermbach and his blonde daughter, Charlotte, disturbingly feminine to men from three years behind barbed wire. An assignment from Nicolai prevents Johnny from joining Guy and Charlotte in a swimming expedition, and brings jarringly close to the surface the unspoken situation below the surface. Then Guy stirs it further with a chance remark, which combined with a brutal discovery Johnny had made in a deceptively peaceful-appearing barn, prepares the way for the final horror of the lake. As reportage, the story is exceptional, a pattern of events seen with perceptive and sensitive eyes; as a novel, it somehow just misses, though it marks a distinct advance over the previous A Crowd Is Not Company.