The Man in the Bunker by Rory Clements gripped me from beginning to end. It starts at the end of the Second World War when spy Tom Wilde thinks real life is beginning again. But the dilemma is in the book’s title. Who was the dead man in the bunker in Berlin? Were the burnt remains really that of Hitler? If not, where is he? This is the sixth in Clements’ thriller series about American historian-turned-spy Wilde who spends the war working for the English and American secret services, and each of them has been unputdownable. It is now late summer 1945 and the European war is over. Germany is defeated, in ruins, starving and with millions of Holocaust survivors, displaced people and refugees. The country has been carved up between the allied forces to bring security and discipline but it is a world in which it is easy to disappear, to reinvent yourself. It is a world in which lies are told for survival. As in the previous Wilde books, it is difficult to know who is telling the truth, who is lying and why. Clements is a consummate thriller writer who writes with emotional depth, political intrigue and historical research.
The action starts at a running pace and never stops. Two men are killed on a remote road in southern Bavaria. In Cambridge, history professor Tom Wilde is anticipating the arrival of new undergraduates and his wife Lydia is applying to study medicine. Then three visitors arrive with an incredible request. Wilde must find Adolf Hitler. At first Wilde laughs, then he refuses. That night, Lydia says he will regret refusing. The next day Wilde changes his mind. First, he questions some German scientists who are imprisoned near Cambridge, their rooms bugged, their conversations and gossip recorded. A clue leads Wilde to Garmisch where he teams up with the unpredictable Lieutenant Mozes Heck, a Dutch Jew who hates the Nazis. As they identify Nazis who were close to Hitler, their progress is continually impeded by the conditions in defeated Germany; starvation, bomb damage, medical crisis and the flood of Holocaust survivors and misplaced citizens. And by Heck’s secret, personal mission.
The ending is particularly intriguing. Is The Man in the Bunker the final book of the Tom Wilde story or will it morph into a Cold War series?
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