Death in Focus

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

Started out good, but turned tedious and slow. This one was a miss for me! Death in Focus is the first book in a new series by the mystery writer Anne Perry. I’m a big fan of Perry’s mysteries, specifically the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt books and also the William Monk books, but this book I just did not connect with.
Death in Focus is set in 1933, as Hitler is coming into power and Nazi ideology is taking shape. One main character is Elena, who is caught up with a gentleman who is then murdered, and Elena tries to pass on the message the gentleman was trying to deliver in Berlin. Another main character is Lucas Standish, Elena’s grandfather, who was a former head of MI6. Lucas is still somewhat informed of goings-on around the globe, and so he is involved remotely, as he’s in England and Elena travels from Italy to Berlin.
I liked both of these characters. Elena was plucky and determined, while Lucas was steadfast and calm. I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of Lucas’s character, as a former head of MI6 he was shrouded in mystery.
The problem with this book wasn’t with the characters, however, it was with the story. It went downhill and got boring quickly! How can a story of a person being framed for murder and being on the run in the early stages of Nazi Germany be boring? But this book has succeeded! The ending got a bit better but the whole plot was flimsy and far-fetched. Besides the main characters of Elena and Lucas (who aren’t even in the same country for the majority of the book), I had trouble keeping everyone straight. Elena meets man after man in this book (she meets one in Italy, another on a train, another in Germany, etc etc), and I kept getting them all mixed up in my mind. None of them had a backstory that stuck with me, so I kept getting confused.
Besides having too many indistinct characters, there was also too much conversation. These conversations would slow down the pace, and I found myself drifting away mentally during these scenes. Which is quite rare for me. Typically I prefer more conversation and less action, but it didn’t work for me here.
I love Anne Perry’s other mysteries, and I did enjoy the two main characters so even though this one was a miss for me, I would read another book in this series. While it was heavy handed and preachy at times, I can see how the stage has been set for some promising stories to come!
Bottom Line: Slow and tedious, but I’m cautiously optimistic for the series as a whole!
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The first in Anne Perry's new series is set in 1933 and gives some insight into the period in which Hitler has built up his power.  In England, Oswald Mosely and his British Union of Fascists have gained influence.  Fear of another war with Germany has many concerned, but the attitudes vary from those realizing the danger of Hitler and those admiring him and his policies.

What I liked:  Several quotes near the beginning.

"Fear begets violence and hatred," he said.  "it's the easy answer.  Blame someone else.  blame the gypsies, the Jews, the Communists, anyone but ourselves.  Get rid of them, and it will all be fine."

"Hitler is either assuming more power himself or appointing bloody awful men to do it for him.  Himmler, for example."

'I suppose every culture has them:  men in bondage to their own inadequacies, who will never be satisfied because the emptiness inside them."

"They're always there, the misfits.  It's the measure of a leader, which men he picks for the next tier of command...."

"...for all the judgment it exercised, without right and far too often, he believed, without kindness."

"What you see, and allow without a fight, is what you become yourself.  What is the moral difference between the man who burns his neighbor to death, and the man who stands by and watches him do it?"

"And Hitler feeds people's resentment, ..." 

"People are capable of believing anything they want to justify what they feel.  And of believing that what they need to be true to justify what they are doing."

"...now winning is the only objective!  And the more you win, the more you justify it, until the whole idea of right and wrong disappears and only winning matters."

What I didn't like:  Everything else was a disappointment.  This is unusual for an Anne Perry book, but the plot and the conclusion were improbable and the characters were thin.

The quotes, however, from the early part of the book (and I didn't include all of them) seem as appropriate in today's climate as they did in 1933.

NetGalley/Random House/Ballentine
Historical Mystery.  Sept. 17, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.
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This is a story set in pre-World War II Europe. There is a debate about Hitler is a good thing for Germany or if he is a horrible individual who will bring death and destruction to Europe once again. Since looking back at history gives us twenty-twenty vision, we know now that Hitler was the latter.

This story is about a young woman, Elena Standish, who originally worked for the British government. However, she was duped and it resulted in her changing professions. She is now a photographer and is trying to make a name for herself.

This story not only introduces Elena but also various members of her family. There are many surprises with regards to those individuals and what they have done in the past and are still doing at the time this story is set.

Elena ends up finding out for herself just how serious things are beginning to take shape in Germany. She begins to take her stance and find her way once again.

I’m looking forward to reading more in this series. The author touched on many things that were heartbreaking and, at the same time, was able to write a compelling mystery as well.

I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley.
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Interbellum intrigue!

What would you do if you'd been having a grand old time on the Amalfi Coast and then discovered a body in a hotel laundry cupboard. It's 1931, Elena Standish Is working as a photographer at an economics conference. Her sister Margot, who marches to the beat of her own drum, came along for the ride. The opening scene captures this so vividly. At some point Elena decides to join the young man, Ian Newton, who was with her when the body made its presence felt, on a journey to Berlin. Only her companion, that oh so nice young man, is shot on the train. With his dying breath he informs Elena that he's trying to stop an assassination of a top member of the Nazi party in Berlin. His reasons seem lucid so Elena decides to Cary forward with Ian's task.
What we find out as the story continues is that Elena has had a somewhat unfortunate encounter with another man when she was working with the Foreign Office in Paris, embarrassing to her father as a high ranking Foreign Office official, and devastating for Elena. She had been asked to leave.
Along with this it comes to light that Elena's grandfather Lucas, had been the head of MI16 during the World War I, and still has contacts in the service. Some of those contacts are worried about the rise of Hitler and Nazism and of Oswald Mosley's influence in England. 
What Elena sees in Berlin, the dangers she finds herself in, are horrendous and as she experiences first hand the lies and dangers behind Hitler's rise to power. (All the time Elena is photographing her journey).
A complex novel full of intrigue and human interest that lays the ground for what I am sure will be, in inimitable Anne Perry style, a startling new series set in this Interbellum period, that of Elena Standish.
I was struck by the almost mantra spoken of various ways throughout, Never Again, 'there should never be another war like the last one.' And one can sympathize with the British people in their memories of anguish, and their hopes that this had been  the war to end all wars. We of course know differently. This works well into the way Perry's novel develops.
Strong female leads, old school staunch combatants, a family that has more than carried its share of secrets and heartbreak from WW1 into a new and welcomed age that on the surface seems all that was hoped for, and is in reality completely alien to those hopes. All give an authenticity to this pre World War II thriller!

A Random House ARC via NetGalley
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Death In Focus by Anne Perry  4.5 stars

This is new series by Anne Perry featuring a new character, Elena Standish.  The time period is the 1930's in Europe.  Elena Standish is on the Amalfi Coast on assignment to photograph an economic conference.  A talented photographer, she is traveling with her sister Margot who is a war widow.  There are parties and people who seem to be desperately trying to forget - grief, the Depression, or the pall that hangs over Europe because of Mussolini and Hitler.  Elena meets Ian and there is some attraction there.  When he has to leave unexpectedly, she agrees to go with him to Berlin.  On the train trip, Ian is murdered by not before he tells Elena that he works for British Intelligence and that she must complete his mission.  This act will put her in danger in Hitler's Germany.  She is in the crowd when somebody is killed and she is accused of being an assassin  On the run, she receives help from an American journalist who hides her among the Jewish population in Berlin.  She gets captured and escapes with the help of another man she met in Italy.  The ending was unexpected, so I won't spoil it.

The action was non-stop and it showed that a lot of leaders hoped that there wouldn't be another war.  That people hoped that Hitler would confine his actions to Germany.  The portrayal of the actions in Germany were chilling.  One of the Jewish characters, Zillah said things that probably a lot of Jews said at the time.  But we as readers know that for most of them there are no happy endings.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to the next Elena Standish.  But before that there will be a new Christmas book "A Christmas Gathering" and a new Daniel Pitt to look forward to.

Thank you Netgalley and Random House/ Ballantine for this ARC.
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I’m excited to read the first book in a new series by Anne Perry.  I really liked the characters and the setting. There was a lot going on and it kept getting more involved and complicated as the story went on. I will look forward to the next one in this series!
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Oh how terrific to have a new character from Perry!  Elena Standish is a young and privileged British woman who finds herself in the middle of a nest of mess in the lead up to WWII.  Perry uses her, and her family, to explore the conflicts among the British, among others, about the German National Socialist Party and Adolf Hitler in the days before it became vividly apparent what was going to happen.  This also wraps in the fascination some felt for the Fascists.  The time between WWI and WWII was fraught with conflict in big and small ways- and a lot of unease.  Perry has captured that.  Of course there's also a mystery- the murder of Ian, who Elena met on the train and his request to her that she warn the British Ambassador to Germany- and then there's how Elena is pulled into the conflict.  I actually found her parents and grandparents just as interesting.  This is a good set up for future installments and I'm very much looking forward to them.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  For Perry fans and those who enjoy historical mysteries.
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Anne Perry’s new series is going to be a winner!  In the buildup to WWII, as Hitler consolidates his power in Germany and England tries to turn its head away from the rising conflagration, Ellen Standish takes a trip to Europe to enjoy the peace of the Amalfi Coast.  Standish, the daughter of diplomats and granddaughter of spies, finds herself enmeshed in the intrigues of the times.  This is going to be a great series, and I look forward to more.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Set around 1933 Elena Standish is accused of espionage and is in trouble with the Nazis.This story centers around her and through her family and you get to see the different aspects of roles people played in the war(diplomats,spies)
If you are a fan of books set around World War II you will love this book.A good mix of history and fiction and mystery make it a very interesting read.
#netgalley#deathinfocus #anneperry
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Death in Focus is the start of a brand-new series from the popular and prolific historical mystery novelist, Anne Perry. Getting in on the ground floor of a new series as it's being released is always fun, so I seized upon this chance to read my first (gasp) Anne Perry.

When the curtain opens on Elena Standish, it's 1933 and she is on the paradisiacal Amalfi Coast in the south of Italy. Elena is a photographer on assignment to cover an economic conference. Her older sister Margot has come along, and the sisters are able to have a bit of fun in spite of their own personal pain. (Margot was married and quickly widowed in World War I, and Elena was shamed by her traitorous ex.) Perry beautifully establishes both the setting and the tone, then adroitly shifts when Elena and her new male companion, Ian Newton, discover a murder. Before you know it, Elena's in Berlin caught in the midst of a whole heap of political intrigue and danger.

Perry is at her strongest evoking time and place, and establishing the emotional atmosphere. Death in Focus is informed by undercurrents of grief. The world scene is tumultuous, with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party increasing in popularity and power. Everyone still carries pain from the Great War and many also harbor long-kept secrets from even their wives and children. Perry gives focus to the inner lives of characters, and we see how secrets and grief have shaped relational dynamics within Elena's family, including her grandfather Lucas, a retired former head of MI6, her grandmother who also played a sensitive role in the war, and her diplomat father. We also meet a colleague of her grandfather's who is still an active member of MI6 and to whom Lucas is closer than to his own son.

Although it can be frustrating to witness Elena's naivety, and though some of the situations are improbable and the ending a touch abrupt and unsatisfying, Death in Focus is immersive and immensely enjoyable. Perry's writing is emotive and evocative, and her lush and moody prose sustains interest as much as her plot. By the story's end, we see an Elena greatly changed by her experience, just as her family before her was changed by their efforts in the war. We're sure to see more of Elena and the compelling Lucas in future installments, and the Elena we'll meet there will be more savvy and believably heroic in her own right. With Elena's inevitable growth, further promised espionage, and the build-up to WWII still to come in the timeline, Death in Focus is the leading frame in what should be a strong collective whole of a series.      

Verdict: 4.5 of 5 Hearts. An immensely enjoyable start to a new historical mystery series!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Ballantine Books and Netgalley for allowing me access to a digital ARC of Death in Focus in exchange for my honest review.
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As a fan of Anne Perry’s other series, I found this book hard to access. The period of time between the wars in England is one I usually love reading about, but I just felt there was something missing in Elena. 

I’m sure this will be the start of a new series and I hope that I will feel more engaged as it moves forward.
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I hope this is the start of a new series, an interesting main character with a host of other characters just as interesting.
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I really enjoyed the start of a new series. She does her research and there are a lot of historical facts in the book which dear you in to pre-WW2 Europe. The author did a wonderful job showing the divisions that are rising in Europe, especially among the British themselves. The lead character, Elena, comes from a family of diplomats and secret agent.

I look forward to seeing the growth in Elena's character. To see her advance from being a naive somewhat weak character into a more confident, resourceful individual. My favorite characters in the book were her grandfather and grandmother, Lucas and Josephine. I honestly hope they take a big part in the series. Would also love to see more of her sister, who I think would help Elena with the growing up.

I was intrigued by the fact that the author uses the main character to show the changes in the German people. To explain how you don't need to believe an evil only to use it for your own personal gain. You'll get accustomed to them until you're not there not your last choice, but you're first. That you can justify them to get the results you're looking for. The more that you win, the more you can justify it to yourself, which begins to blur the line between right and wrong and thinking that only winning matters. Such scary time those were and I enjoyed the way the author immersed us into that world. Most of the characters were well-defined and likable, you cheered for the good guys and didn't know some of the bad guys until the end.

I definitely recommend this new series and I look forward to the next book already.

Thank you to the author/publisher/Netgalley for the opportunity to read this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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In this new book by Ann Perry  merges family secrets and how we got a new hero who realizes that she has to solve the mystery all on her own.  Ann perry is one of the best authors out there. Every time I read one I can’t wait for the next book. And you won’t be disappointed with this one..
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This new book by Anne Perry takes place during a fascinating and frightening time and place - Germany in the early 1930s during the rise of Hitler. There is all of Perry's usual sense of setting. The reader can feel what it is to be there. But I was disappointed that there wasn't more depth to the characters. Depth and individuality, even of  secondary characters is usually a strength of hers. I found it a bit slow going in the beginning as I couldn't get involved with any of them.. Some seemed thinly drawn or just dull as well as interchangeable with other characters.. In this story, the emphasis is almost entirely on the plot. It is a good one. A young Englishwoman visiting in Italy is drawn into a plot to assassinate a Nazi official and blame the British. She doesn't know whom to trust, there are people around her being killed and she has to find some way of both doing the right thing while not getting herself killed. It did keep my attention to the end and offer some surprises.
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This is a great first book in a new series by Anne Perry.   Elena Standish is the daughter of a diplomat and the granddaughter of the head of MI6 during the First WW.  This book takes place before the start of WWII.   Elena, a photographer, and her sister Margot have gone to the Amalfi coast for an Economics Conference.  Elena had previously worked in the Foreign office, fell in love with her boss, and he had betrayed them all.  However, she meets Ian, who she easily connects with.  After they find a dead man in the hotel, Emma agrees to ride the train to Paris with Ian.  When she finds Ian dying, he asks her to go to Berlin to warn the British embassy that a high up Nazi, Scharnhorst, is going to be shot at a rally.  

Emma tells the Embassy, and then goes to the rally and shoots pictures, including one of Scharnhorst being shot.  When she returns to the hotel she finds a rifle in her closet and realizes they are going to pin the shooting on her.  She escapes from the hotel, is befriended by some Jews, and while still on the run, watches the burning of books where she takes more moving photos.  

This is a very exciting mystery, with graphic descriptions of what is happening in Berlin in the days before war begins.  There is a very surprising event at the end of the book.
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Reading an Anne Perry book is the gift that keeps on giving. Each page is filled with twists and turns and a story line that keeps you wanting more. I was thrilled to read this book as it is a first in a new series. This was an amazing book that introduces us to Elena Standish in the time just before the start of World War II. We first meet Elena in Amalfi. Her vacation turns into a nightmare when she unwittingly becomes involved in secrets that she should not have heard.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC copy of this exciting new series by Anne Perry. I absolutely loved it, did not see the ending coming, can not wait until the next book and I think this series may be my new favorite of all of the authors works!!
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Normally, I devour the books by Anne Perry and have enjoyed her characters and writing immensely over the years, however, after 18 chapters and trying diligently to absorb the story being told, I was forced to abandon this promising new series.  There was entirely too much gore for me to accept.  In 18 chapters there were 2 murders, an assassination, and a person who apparently had their skin removed.  I couldn't go on.

I was very much interested in a character such as Elena Standish, seeing the second World War through the eyes of a photographer.  I guess I just didn't expect the gory descriptions that came with it.  As usual the writing was superb, the story appalling.
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This is another new series from Anne Perry and is set in the 1930s. Initially, Perry focuses on the toll people paid as a result of WWI, particularly women. As this book opens, there is an increasing fear that war is once again on the horizon – a war that no one wants.

Then the book really begins as we join Elena Standish and her sister, Margot, who are vacationing in Amalfi on the Italian coast. After meeting a young man, Ian, she is smitten. She impetuously agrees to travel to Paris with him. When Ian is attacked on the train, he convinces Elena to agree to go to Berlin to deliver a message to the British ambassador. When Ian dies, Elena fells compelled to change her plans once again and goes to Berlin.

Once again, Perry has created compelling, complex characters who act according to the social mores of the time. This book is so well-written that Perry evokes the era and the cities so the reader feels like she can see the beauty of Amalfi as well the frenzied pace of Berlin and the sense that some people are frozen and unable to act because their fear of another war is so deep. The ending was satisfactory and not easily predictable.

If you like historical mysteries and are intrigued with history just before WWII, this new series is for you. While it is always exciting to read the first book in a series, reading a new-series book by an author you’ve been reading for years is even more exciting. This book belongs at, or near, the top of every historical mystery fan’s to-be-read list.

My thanks to Ballantine and NetGalley for a free eARC.
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