REVIEW: Infinite Stakes by John Rhodes
September 1940. Adolph Hitler’s Luftwaffe is poised to defeat Britain’s RAF and conquer England, his last remaining enemy.
Winston Churchill faces Nazi Germany from the Battle of Britain bunker. Waves of Luftwaffe bombers sweep over England, carrying death and destruction. Only a handful of heavily outnumbered RAF planes rise against the Luftwaffe. The battle—involving almost a thousand aircraft—rages all day.
But, against all odds, the Luftwaffe is turned back, and England survives to fight on, alone and outnumbered.
Eleanor, a mathematician who has developed a strategic model, is tasked by Churchill to analyze Hitler’s plans. Johnnie a Spitfire pilot, is appointed to lead an American Eagle volunteer squadron. The demands of the war press on them both, and they struggle to find time for their new love.
While Eleanor is sent as a British representative to the American government, Johnnie is shot down and imprisoned. Reeling from the news of Johnnie’s capture, Eleanor is commanded to fly to Pearl Harbor to give advice on naval strategy in early December 1941—a moment in history that would change America forever.
Infinite Stakes is a gripping saga full of vital historical moments that were only possible through individual acts of bravery and strength.
Dear Mr. Rhodes,
I adored the first book in this series, “Breaking Point.” Johnny Shaux and Eleanor Rand came alive along with the first part of the Battle of Britainand hoped that there would be another to follow it. Sadly for me, there are parts of this book I enjoyed but a lot that just never gelled plus tons of repetition.
The narrative used to tell the story is a clever one. It’s now decades after the war and Dame Eleanor Shaux is being interviewed by a (slight idiot) TV interviewer about the Battle of Britain, her role, how her mathematical formula was used to help Air Vice-Marshal Park, and then Churchill, try and predict what Hitler would do next, and how her (eventual) husband Johnny Shaux continued to fly that day as Britain tried desperately not to lose.
At first, I thought I’d like this set up. Eleanor gets to tell the interviewer – and thus the reader as well – everything that happened, adding her detailed and special knowledge as well as discussing the powerful and influential leaders with whom she came in contact. Eleanor is still as feisty as she ever was. Perhaps she’s even gotten feistier over the years since these events took place. But eventually the TV interview opening of each chapter began to pull me out of the story. Just when something exciting was occurring, the chapter would end to allow Eleanor to begin to tell what was going to happen next instead of diving straight into what was going to happen next. It also made the book a lot of telling instead of showing.
As it had been a year since I read “Breaking Point,” at first I appreciated having some reintroduction of previous characters and events as a refresher. I also understand the need to bring readers new to the series up to speed. Eleanor’s use of the zero-sum math formula into which data is fed, numbers are (in terms of what was possible in 1940) crunched, and possible probabilities are predicted is vitally important to the book so ditto the need to explain that. But honestly after it had been rehashed, then she’d explained it to the modern interviewer, then to Churchill, then it was explained to the new recruits on her team, then it was sort of explained to several other people I got tired of hearing it.
I also got tired of having Johnny’s favorite “Yeats” poem repeated. Even Churchill began to wear on my nerves. I wanted more flying, I wanted more pilot camaraderie, I wanted more of Eleanor and Johnny together rather than just lost in thoughts of each other. Somehow the intensity of the last book got lost in this one. That is until Johnny is training an “Eagle Squadron” and then at almost the end of the story when Johnny meets someone he never expected to and they form a bond of aviator brotherhood. Now these bits I liked! This was more like the first book.
The way the story ended gives me hope that we’ll see Eleanor and Johnny again. The war has entered a new phase and is headed towards what Churchill described as “the end of the beginning.” I just hope we’ve reached the end of telling too much and repeating too much. C