Title: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke
Author: Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: April 21, 2015
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)
The summary of Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke from Goodreads:
The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.
But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.
Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?
It’s no secret that I love history. The period around World War 2 is one of the most intriguing periods for me for many reasons. It’s certainly one of the darkest and evil periods of history, but it’s more than that. It’s the choices people made and how that period showed the best and worst of what people could be. I really enjoyed Prisoner of Night and Fog, and was excited to read Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke.
Gretchen and Daniel are living in England under false identities. They’re trying to create new lives away from the growing darkness in Germany. When Daniel receives word of an attack on someone in his family, he immediately goes back, and Gretchen follows. Where Prisoner of Night and Fog was about them creating their relationship and overcoming prejudices, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke is about trying to hold the relationship together and uncovering the lies and deceit going on in Germany.
Blankman has done a really excellent job of describing the period. The tension, secrecy, and deceit made for an interesting atmosphere. The events described in the book were ones that I knew about, but hadn’t really done a lot of research into. There’s a bit of a murder mystery that’s connected to a major precursor to Hitler taking power. The web Blankman weaves in intricate and always had me guessing.
What I found especially interesting was the disconnect between the first and the second books in terms of how events are viewed. In the first book, Gretchen was still the darling of the Nazi’s, whose father sacrificed himself for Hitler and who is one of Hitler’s favorites. Events are described from within the Nazi perspective. Gretchen sees the positive side Hitler is telling all Germans to believe. She believes, mostly, what he does. In the second book, she’s no longer the darling. She’s outside the German sphere of knowledge. Yet, she uses what she knows of Hitler and the Nazis to try and unravel the mystery. She’s an outsider, but she still has insider knowledge. That was a perspective I greatly enjoyed. It gave a new view to the events leading up to Hitler taking control of Germany.
While I did really enjoy the book, it wasn’t completely perfect for me. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Prisoner of Night and Fog, though. I couldn’t really figure out why. There’s nothing really wrong with the book. There’s no glaring problems. It’s well-researched and well-written. However, although I liked the outsider’s perspective with insider knowledge, it’s that part that ended up making me like this book a little bit less. It’s not that I wanted Gretchen to still be Hitler’s darling. I don’t. But I really liked the focus of the first book on the psychological reasoning on the characters. Trying to understand the psychological reasoning of the characters really helped drive the novel. There’s still some of that in this book, but it’s not as much of a character drive. It’s there, but more to solve the mysteries instead of trying to understand the characters. That’s what is missing for me.
I think you’ll enjoy this book if you liked Prisoner of Night and Fog. The only reason I hesitate is because Prisoner of Night and Fog didn’t really feel like it needed a sequel. I’m completely happy it had one, but I didn’t feel like I had to have one or I wouldn’t know how Gretchen and Daniel lived beyond that novel.
I also think if you’re a fan of pre-World War 2 history, you’ll probably like this one. It doesn’t deal directly with the war, but it shows how Germany reached that point by showing how Hitler gained control of Germany. It was certainly an interesting book.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.