What if Hitler had won?
Author Robert Harris presents a world where Germany came out on top following the second World War. Hitler remains as head of Germany’s Western European empire with several of his key associates like Joseph Goebbels and Reinhard Heydrich in positions of power.
Following Germany’s discovery of the cracking of the Enigma Code, the Reich cruised to victory over its enemies in Europe. The United States’ victory over Japan still ended with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it was delayed by a year. During that period, Germany had the time to build their own atomic bombs, ushering in a cold war with America.
With Germany enjoying unprecedented economic success coupled with a vast, overreaching empire a question still lingered – whatever happened to the Jews? The official explanation was that they were sent west, settling in towns far from Hitler’s empire. However, rumors of mass slaughter still persist.
We pick things up in April 1964, in the days leading up to both Hitler’s 75th birthday celebration and a visit from U.S. President Joseph Kennedy (JFK’s Father). The story follows Xavier March, an investigator for the Kripo (the German police) as he looks into the mysterious death of Josef Buhler, a secretary and deputy governor of the Nazi-controlled Krakow. As more bodies begin to pile up and the Gestapo begins to claim jurisdiction, March’s curiosity gets the better of him.
He forms a friendship with an American reporter and together, they begin to establish a connection among the deceased. As they continue to investigate behind the back of the SS, the duo threatens to uncover Germany’s darkest secret.
My only complaint deals with what felt like a shoehorned romantic connection between March and MaGuire. The setting should have been enough to sustain a reader’s attention. While It wasn’t all that central or forced, it just felt like an unnecessary trope within what was already a rich plot. Otherwise, I thought this was a hell of a read. It’s strange to say that I enjoyed reading about a world in which Hitler had won because let’s be honest, that would be a nightmare scenario. However, it was interesting visualizing a revitalised Berlin featuring monuments and statues to commemorate the Reich’s resounding victory. I suppose I’m just a sucker for alternate timeline stories and “what-if” scenarios.