Top positive review
Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2017
I am going to have to agree with 72% of the reviewers and give this book a well-deserved five-star rating. It is well written, well-researched and is the work of a talented writer. It also sheds light on a little-known humanitarian effort to give emergency help to the starving Dutch people at the end of World War II, “Operation Chowhound.” The plot has been summarized many times by other reviewers, so I will not duplicate their efforts.
What I Liked: The problem here is that I liked so much, so I am going to have to hit a few high points. This is an ambitious novel in that it has to set a credible background in three different places: 1930’s Chicago, Holland during the Nazi occupation, and the life of a B-17 crew in the U.S. 8th Air Force. Mrs. Moody handles all these challenges with aplomb. She captures a sense of place and makes it look easy. It is not. I like her dialogue and plotting. Her characters are believable, and the story kept me interested throughout. I really did not notice that the book is a bit longer than average, since there seemed to be no wasted words. The editing is superb. I also liked the spiritual aspects of the novel. I was impressed that Mrs. Moody correctly gave the title of an enlisted bomb-aimer as a “toggler.” This is a fine point, but it clearly shows careful research.
What I Did Not Like: Honestly, there is not much that I can say here. One small problem is that I could never get a clear image of what Anya Versteeg looked like. Perhaps I missed her description. I also thought the plot wandered a bit when the action was centered in Holland. Finally, there is one (and only one) scene that did not ring true.
“Anya was on him in a flash, shoving a scarf in his mouth at the same instant she kneed him hard in the groin. His eyes bugged briefly before rolling back as he passed out. She helped him fall to the ground to avoid a loud thud, then grabbed his head and swiftly snapped his neck.”
I am afraid Mrs. Moody took her cues on hand-to-hand combat from the movies. That is a dangerous thing to do. In the first place, a knee to the groin is quite unlikely to cause instant unconsciousness, unconsciousness so immediate that he is literally out on his feet. Secondly, despite what we have all seen in films, breaking a man’s neck is not at all easy to do. If Anya had extensive training, had unusual upper body strength and the victim was unusually small framed and small-boned, it might be conceivable. But highly unlikely. Why not have her stab him in the back of his neck while he writhed in agony (but fully conscious)?
Another problem is that there was no preparation for Anya’s action. If she is so skilled at hand-to-hand combat, there really should have been a bit of prefiguring, otherwise it seems totally out of character.
Conclusion: My quibbles are minor, and the qualities of this novel are outstanding. It is a worthy read, and I enjoyed it very much.