Katastrophe (by Graham Hurley)

Katastrophe (by Graham Hurley)

Preview Copy supplied via Netgalley – Pub Date 7 Jul 2022

Graham Hurley is new author to me but he is, I find, a prolific acclaimed writer. His latest novel Katastrophe about the last months of war in Europe, and the advance of Russian forces on Germany resonates with the current situation in Ukraine on Europe’s borders.

German forces are on the retreat on all fronts, Hitler is a broken but still dangerous man, and the Allies are vying for territory. It is not surprising that many German politicians, senior Army officials and even Hitler’s closest colleagues are negotiating with the Allies to save their bacon (or their bratwurst!). Stalin is determined to reap the spoils of war with a land grab well into Europe. However, he is suspicious that his so-called Allies are looking to deny him his major prize.  Even Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda guru, is finding it difficult to spread more lies. However, Goebbels still exerts a huge influence on Hitler – a fact well recognised by Stalin.

Stalin is anxious to contact Goebbels so that he can influence the outcome of the Soviets’ progress into Germany and beyond. But how to contact Goebbels? Werner Nehmann was Goebbel’s righthand man in Berlin as a prolific copywriter and advisor but finds himself on the front line in Stalingrad. The Germans surrender to the Soviets and Nehmann is captured. There follows a gritty account of his time in various Gulags. So when Stalin decides to send Nehmann back to Goebbels as an envoy., he jumps at the opportunity. The path back to Berlin is littered with problems and sacrifices.

Meanwhile, Churchill is trying to manipulate the outcome but his influence is failing and the Americans are dominating the strategy.  Of course, Churchill is a master tactician and his spies led by Ursula Barton are sent to Switzerland to observe secret peace talks. Can they somehow manipulate the outcome of the talks? Unfortunately, there is in-fighting in the British Spy services (seemingly led by one Kim Philby) with a widespread belief that there is a mole. Guess who?

All these strands are brought together in this gripping novel. The characters are rich and the locations are hauntingly described. The horrors of war are in your face, and unforgettable. Although we know the outcome of the war, it is intriguing to discover the negotiations and tactics employed by the Allies. Back home Barton is intrigued by Philby’s role.

In the novel, after the war has ended Barton is discovered dead in her digs. Suicide is the verdict but police will not investigate a neighbour’s report that she heard voices in Barton’s room around the time of her death! Intriguing!!

Katastrophe is part of the SPOILS OF WAR Collection, a thrilling, beguiling blend of fact and fiction born of some of the most tragic, suspenseful, and action-packed events of World War II. From the mind of highly acclaimed thriller author GRAHAM HURLEY,  this is masterful storytelling with compelling recurring characters whose fragmented lives mirror the war that shattered the globe.

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