REVIEW:  Perfidia by Elspeth McKendrick

REVIEW: Perfidia by Elspeth McKendrick

Dear Ms. McKendrick,

PerfidiaI’ve been delighted with your previous books (written as Morag McKendrick Pippin) set in and right before WWII, such a little used era of history. Your integration of historical facts with plots different from almost any others I’ve read stand out the mass of generic regencies that the Powers that Be seem to think is all we historical romance fans want to read. Brava.

Englishwoman Sophie de Havilland fled her homeland after discovering the unsavory truth about her long-time fiance, a truth known but covered up by her parents. Now after having lived in late 1930s Germany for two years with her aunt, who had married a German baron, Sophie is learning some hard truths about this wonder society which she had admired for pulling the country out of the wreck which followed WWI. Time catches up with her aunt and war is declared before she can flee the country. Sophie has to turn to a predatory SS officer to help smuggle Aunt Augusta out of the reach of the Reich. But as Sophie learns, he demands tit for tat and she’s forced to move in with him. But what she doesn’t know about half American Karl von Richten could get her, and certainly him, killed if the Gestapo ever finds out.

Sophie starts out a little hard to like — I mean how can anyone today like a heroine who seems to espouse the Nazi cause and admire them — but then the book is written from the viewpoint of late 1939 when the upperclasses still believed in the good the Nazis had supposedly brought to Germany and when the full horror of what they were and planned to do wasn’t known. When and as Sophie starts to discover exactly what’s behind the facade, she quickly makes her decision and works to bring them down. What I didn’t like about Sophie is that for such an intelligent woman her determination not to ever step foot in England again seemed a little silly at times. I’m glad she had grown enough and matured enough by books end to realize it for the sillyness it was. I’m also glad Karl called her on her tendancy to run. Karl also starts the book as an ambiguous character. I kept reminding myself that he had to be the hero as it certainly wasn’t his bastard half brother, Paul. However, once we were in the clear about him, he was almost too good to be true. Handsome, rich, honorable, determined — the man had almost no faults.

The violence is really violent — thanks for not pussyfooting around about this. No, it’s not pleasant to read about but then it’s not supposed to be — it’s a book with true Gestapo characters who weren’t known for playing nice. If you had toned this down, it would have belittled what really took place. The scene when Sophie has to shoot Inge was a shocker. I had a feeling that something would be unearthed during Inge’s background check but I really didn’t see this fate coming and sat there in shock for a few minutes after it happened. What a well written scene. I thought the suspense during the second half of the book was palpable. There’s one thing Sophie and Karl do, or rather don’t do, that had me shaking my head. Why didn’t they immediately head for the border after the failed attempt on Hitler’s life? Yeah, we wouldn’t have had the later scenes in Gestapo headquarters and you would have eliminated about 100 pages from your story but I did wonder.

The book is filled with good period details which really set the mood and place. And Paul’s fate was delicious. Thank you for that, it couldn’t have been done better. One question: what does “Hubscher Junge” mean?