Hitler’s Angel

Hitler's Angel

Author: William Osborne

Publication: 2012, Chicken House

Pages: 318

Overall Rating:  bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Leni and Otto are German refugees living in England.  They’re recruited by Admiral MacPherson of the London Controlling Section, a secret intelligence organization dedicated to overthrowing Hitler.  Their mission is to go behind enemy lines and rescue a young girl.  They parachute into Germany and at first everything seems to go well.  They find the girl, named Angelika, and spirit her away from the convent where she has been kept prisoner.  But before long the truth begins to set in.  Angelika is more important and valuable then they could ever have imagined, and now Rudolph Heydrich, the ruthless head of the Reich Security Service, is on their trail.  He has countless soldiers at his command, and will stop at nothing to get Angelika back – dead or alive.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: The setting felt quite authentic, down to the clothes and food.  It provided a unique glimpse into wartime Germany – at a time when the country was not yet suffering the bombings and deprivations that would come later in the war.  It’s a picture of a country at war, but still trying to maintain a veneer of peace and tranquility.

Osborne plays on the authenticity of his setting by sprinkling real historical characters into his story – including Heydrich himself.  A very brief historical note at the end lays out which characters were real, and what happened to them.

What I Liked the Least: While I liked this book a lot, there were two scenes that left me extremely frustrated.  In the first, Otto is running from an SS officer in Munich.  Without giving away too much, let me just say that I didn’t buy the reason the officer was chasing him.  But far worse, Otto survives the chase only through complete coincidence.  The scene broke one of the cardinal rules of adventure stories – you can use coincidence to get your characters into trouble, but not to get them out of it.

That one scene was almost enough to make me stop reading the book.  I kept going, and I’m glad I did, because the action that followed was top-notch.  But, unfortunately, there was another equally distressing scene right near the end.  Without giving away too much, I’ll just that it felt like Osborne was trying to end the story on a note of mystery, but all he succeeded in doing was making me feel confused and leaving a gaping loose end with no clear indication that it might be wrapped up in a sequel.

How Good was the Action? After that first chase through Munich, the rest of the action was seat-of-your-pants good.  As they get closer to the border, Otto, Leni, and Angelika have to fight and sneak their way past scores of SS in a standout series of chases and gunfights.   Osborne does a great job balancing blow-by-blow detail with razor sharp tension.  And the final shootout at a bridge is enough to make your fingers shake as they turn the pages.

How Engaging was the Story?   Osborne does an admirable job of pulling us into the budding relationship between Leni and Otto before hooking young Angelika into their hearts.  There are times when the sacrifices that the two teens make in order to save their young charge feel truly heroic – outdone only by the sacrifices Angelika makes to save them.  And yet it never tips over into melodrama.

I’ll admit that there were times during the first third of the book when the story sometimes dragged a bit.  But once they’d rescued Angelika and gone on the run, things really took off.  And Osborne helped push the pace by peppering the story with brief scenes of Heydrich, always reminding us how close he was to capturing the children.

Overall Assessment: A great historical spy novel, filled with authentic details and powerful characters, that races to a rousing, heart-pounding conclusion.

Profanity: Minimal to none.

Sex: A chaste kiss or two and holding hands.

Violence: Yes.  People are shot, buried under mountains of snow, and stabbed.  For the most part, the violence is not especially graphic, with the exception of one brief scene in which Otto is tortured by Heydrich.

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