At my choir (the Waldershelf Singers) people had put books for members to take in exchange for a doantion to charity. I picked up a thumbed paperback by an author I didn’t recognnise, and read on the first page that the author was the Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland, whose writing I admired.

The book grabbed my attantion for the moment I started it, and held it throughout its 552 pages. It began with a shooting in the United Nations headquarters in New York, but soon moved to central Europe, and to what we all know as “the Holocaust”. Gradually the connections between the two become clearer, and the plot moves rapidly back and forth across the Atlansic, and across time periods (1939-45 and the very recent past – 9/11 had recently affected New York, and also the UN).

In a revealing 5-page note at the end, the Author¬†makes it very clear that the vast majority of the events in the story actually happened, and gives his sources for this, starting with a 1977 account of events, “Forged in Fury”, by former BBC corresponded Michael Elkins. While the hero, Tom Byrne, a lawyer formerly on the UN staff, and the heroine Rebecca Merton, a hospital specialist (in paediatric oncology, although that is very peripheral ), are fictional, both are based on real characters. There was on one truly “made up” character, whose role in the plot only emerges towards the end of the book.

It was published in 2008, but ten years later it reads as fresh and as challening a treatise on the inhumanity of man to man as if it were newly published. I have ordered two more of this Author’s books.

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