THE TASTER by V.S. Alexander


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A young German woman is recruited for an unusual position on Hitler’s staff.

In 1943, alarmed by increasing Allied air raids on Berlin, Magda Ritter’s parents send her to Berchtesgaden, a remote Bavarian Alpine town. When she arrives, Magda’s uncle Willy, a staunch Nazi, wangles her a position at The Berghof, Adolf Hitler’s nearby mountain citadel. After a grueling interview process, during which Magda must downplay her lack of Nazi sympathies, she is hired, but she's startled to learn that her duties will involve tasting Hitler’s meals to ensure that he's not being poisoned. Her training includes learning to recognize the characteristics of various poisons, including the almond scent of cyanide. She falls in love with Karl, a handsome SS officer, who, she learns with mixed relief and alarm, is plotting against Hitler. Karl shows her photographic proof of Nazi crimes, of which Magda, like most ordinary Germans, or so she believes, was completely unaware. Magda’s roommate, Ursula, is also part of the resistance, and, when a poisoning plot against Hitler goes awry, Ursula drinks the cyanide-laced tea intended for the Führer. Karl and Magda escape suspicion. In fact, the Führer takes a special interest in the young couple, whom he views as ideal Aryan breeding stock. Their nuptials are hosted by Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun, and shortly thereafter, the newlyweds are transferred to Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s forest hideout. As war rages on and defeat appears imminent, Magda’s fate will depend on the success of her continuing masquerade as a loyal Hitler retainer. For such a fraught story, the pacing is curiously episodic and static. Magda’s hatred of Hitler—who on his occasional appearances is characterized as, at worst, self-deluded—is less than convincing, particularly while she enjoys the privileges her proximity to him confers.

The last days of the Reich have never seemed so quotidian.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4967-1227-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Kensington
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2017


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