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Hitler's Peace

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It’s 1943 and Adolf Hitler is desperate. He knows his grip on power is slipping with enemies closing in from all sides. He wants a peace pact with his opponents, and FDR and Stalin are ready to deal but Churchill is not..
Time for a negotiator. Step forward Willard Mayer, envoy for Roosevelt and a man who will have to deal with double dealing and back stabbing from all quarters.
Philip Kerr has produced a gripping story that leaves the reader on edge throughout with a realist climax..
A novelist at his brilliant best. Not only a great story but also so artfully written. A truly  fantastic book.
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Fans of Philip Kerr’s Berlin noir series might be surprised by this standalone story – it’s most definitely not a Bernie Gunther-style thriller. It’s a rigorously researched historical novel with a fictional intrigue woven around actual events and real people; the military men and global leaders whose actions proved pivotal during WW2. You shouldn’t expect a page-turning espionage adventure – because what you get is a metric tonne of names, ranks and historical references.

However, Hitler’s Peace is so well constructed that it’s almost impossible to see the joins between actual fact and Philip’s fictions – well, apart from a couple of utterly implausible (but extremely entertaining) plot twists. The story is told from several perspectives, switching from an American professor who’s called upon to investigate atrocities that may have happened behind allied and enemy lines to a middle-ranking German army officer, who’s come up with a plot to assassinate the allied leaders and thus save Germany from a humiliating defeat.

While Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin set up their negotiations in the Middle East, intellectuals and army officers plot and scheme to undermine allied efforts and to advance their own agendas. All the players have murky pasts and mixed affiliations which make them vulnerable to accusations of treachery. There’s a solid spy story at the centre of this which pulls many rabbits out of hats: who in the Third Reich in late 1943 might’ve been prepared to do a deal with the Allies? Who might’ve seen the tripartite talks in Tehran as an opportunity for advancement? And who started killing agents in Washington, and then accompanied the American president aboard his warship en route to the summit meeting?

As an alternative timeline, this becomes an immensely engaging story after you’ve negotiated the extended scene-setting of the opening chapters. The series of incompetent events which afflict aboard FDR’s flotilla are ludicrously enjoyable, as are the interludes with Philby and Co. And I was genuinely on tenterhooks as the conference approached and absolutely anything could happen…

Originally published more than a decade ago, Hitler’s Peace may be too academic and meticulous for fans of page-turning thrillers. Equally, it probably takes too many liberties with real-life characters to entirely endear itself to experts on the era. But if you’re happy to steer a middle path through richly detailed historical happenings and (mostly) plausible fictional conceits, this is a rewarding read. As good, in fact, as Kerr’s later Gunther tales – if very different in style and scope.

8/10
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Thanks to Quercus Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The late Philip Kerr was an author of inimitable talent in the field historical fiction and will be sadly missed. 'Hitler's Peace', is yet another example of Kerr's astonishing ability to take historical 'truth', and re-fashion it into something new, and utterly absorbing. All the hallmarks of Kerr's greatness are present here, too. If you thought Kerr's legendary Bernie Gunther series of books were classic examples of their genre, which they undoubtedly are, then you will not be disappointed with 'Hitler's Peace'. It is technically a 'what if?' type of novel, but the events outlined by Kerr could very well have turned out as he envisaged them. Many alternative history novels require a suspension of belief on the part of the reader, not Kerr's. It his ability meld the intricacies of history with just enough fictional moving parts to give his writing an incomparable authenticity, that made him such a great writer. Because make no mistake, you will never see the likes of Kerr again on the literary stage. Others may attempt to imitate his style, but they will never compare with his unique vision, creativity and instinctive feel for the historical ebb and flow of world events. The plot for 'Hitler's Peace' is a plausible one; swimming with the currents of history, not against. It is 1943, and Hitler's Germany is facing defeat. Fearful of another Treaty of Versailles and the ruination of post-war Germany, the great, good and the not-so-good of Hitler, Stalin, FDR and Churchill, along with their various apparatchiks, deploy all the skills of chess masters in their own realpolitik-esque brand of political manoeuvres. The results pitch ally against ally, with the great evil of Nazi Germany in the middle of the  emerging rivalries for post-war supremacy. The meticulous research of Kerr, and his ingenious contextualisation of historical events within a thriller-like format, makes this a compulsive read. If Hitler hadn't engaged in his own form of nihilism this may well have been the true course of history. It certainly gives one pause for thought.
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Weaving true facts & real characters into an enjoyable and readable novel takes great skill but in Hitler’s Peace Philip Kerr achieves this and more.

Set in the middle of World War 2 did the great leaders meet up to negotiate a peace treaty? And who would want it to fail and why?

This is an excellent book that flows superbly and is one that I definitely recommend
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This is a wonderful story and i appreciated the vivid historical background and the great cast of characters.
Mr Kerr is a master storyteller and this story keeps you hooked till the end.
I loved the plot and I loved the storytelling.
An excellent read, highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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The late and much lamented Philip Kerr could have written out the names and numbers from the telephone book and still made them sound interesting - he was that great a writer.

Like so many others, I loved his Bernie Gunther series so I thought that I would delve into his back catalogue and came across this 2005 second world war what-if thriller.

The storyline has been dissected to death elsewhere so I will not repeat it or provide spoilers. All I will say is that all the leading characters from Nazi Germany that populate the Gunther series are here in their appalling glory.

The characterisations and historical accuracy are wonderful and engrossing as is the plot and the resulting machinations that arise. There is also an excellent main character in Willard Mayer who is sympathetic and credible.

All it lacks is Bernie and every time a door opens I half expect him t come string through it, cynical and wisecracking as normal.

He doesn't' but this book is an excellent precursor to the main body of the Gunther series that follows it and is one to be cherished.
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Philip Kerr once again writes of WW2, a topic and time period he is extraordinarily well acquainted with, this time without the canny Bernie Gunther, in this standalone historical thriller set in 1943. The mood in Berlin is bleak, acknowledging that they are facing certain defeat, the Allied bombing of Berlin and Germany is taking its toll, and Stalingrad underlines the catastrophic failure of the Germans on the Eastern front. In this blend of fact and faction, Hitler and his senior Nazis are fearful of FDR's unprecedented demands for an unconditional surrender, and the devastating ruination of Germany that would inevitably follow. Himmler, Schellenberg, Ribbentrop and others are jostling for position in a tense climate of deadly rivalries, looking to secure the best deal for Germany, hoping to drive a wedge between the US and Stalin, as various undercover efforts are undertaken to negotiate the best peace deal for Hitler and Germany.

The only major player not interested in a deal is Churchill, but he is by far the weakest of the Big Three. FDR is perhaps understandably drawn to a deal as it will save huge numbers of American lives, and both he and Stalin have their eyes on the bigger picture, their ability to influence and shape post-war Europe, and how they intend to benefit from it. Dropped into the middle of this high stakes world of deals and double deals is philosophy professor, an academic and Office of Strategic Services agent, Willard Mayer, a German-American Jew asked by FDR to ascertain the truth behind the allegation of a Russian massacre of surrendering Polish officers at Katyn Forest. Mayer is keenly aware that even if true, it is unlikely to prevent FDR from allying himself with Stalin as he finds himself facing danger, deception, betrayal, and assassinations in a behind the scenes moral free real-politik zone that the Big Three and Germany operate in.

Where Kerr does a sterling job is in portraying the murky world of terror and atrocities that Hitler's Germany and Stalin engaged in, and how at the end of the day, so little of this mattered to a US looking towards its own self interest, seeking to secure its European power base and extend its influence. Morality and ideals have little sway other than as clothes to don for PR purposes, the dirty truths obscured, and philosophically one might even question if there is such a thing as truth. This is engaging storytelling, buttressed by the actual realities and real people of the time, such as Kim Philby and Evelyn Waugh. I admit I have a stronger preference for Kerr's terrific Bernie Gunther series, but this is nevertheless a worthy, historically detailed thriller. Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC.
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A reprint from 2005, this has an improbable plot that makes it an entertaining romp rather than anything more serious. Lots of mini-plots, assassinations, attempted coups and the like, and one of those rather smug protagonists at whom women fling themselves... A cast of thousands shows off Kerr's historical knowledge but makes the book rather unwieldy. Think airport thriller with superior research.
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