War of Flowers by Jane ThynneThis is the third title in the series with Clara Vine, the actress come spy living in pre-war Nazi Germany.
I really enjoy this series of books which offers a fascinating insight in to the day-to-day life of those living in Germany just before the outbreak of WW2, as the Nazi regime was strengthening its grip on the daily life of its citizens.
The book opens with the murder of a young woman on a cruise ship but then quickly moves to Paris and then wends its way back to Berlin, on to Munich and then on to the Bergdorf, Hitler's mountain retreat. It is now 1938, the Anschluss with Austria , the so-called War of Flowers, has just taken place and the world is trying to understand Hitler and his sabre -rattling. The plot revolves around the lead-up to the annexation of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia and the appeasement politics of the rest of Europe and Britain.
The murder is actually an unnecessary element to the story - Clara does not really get involved in solving the crime and this thread re-appears occasionally at opportune moments and then comes back to tie the plot of the novel about the resistance and failed Oster coup together in an untidy bow. The actual premise of the novel - life in Nazi Germany, the German film industry and the famous real-life cast of characters does not need this plot device to tell a good story or to create suspense. It is all their in the real-life events.
Clara is a fascinating character, constantly walking a fine line of balancing her increasing fame as an actress with the secret life of feeding information on the Nazi elite back to her spymasters. The real-life events of the Oster plot which highlights the resistance movement that existed in Germany offer an interesting view of Germany and its people at this time.
At the end of the novel Clara is left in an increasingly precarious situation and the reader is left to wonder where Thynne will take her next, especially as war is now looming on the horizon. The major figures from the Nazi elite and their wives all make appearances in this series - but the main character of Hitler himself is never seen, only spoken about. You are left to wonder if and when Clara will meet Hitler himself and what will happen when they do.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who likes their historical novels well grounded in fact. This series casts a light on a little known aspect of Nazi Germany - the impact on the people themselves. I would say though that the murder element is not needed to move the story forward and would ask the author to only include this device if the plot really needs it!
I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.