by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Narrator: Graeme Malcom
Length: 15 hrs and 37 mins
Genres: Crime, Historical Fiction, Suspense thriller
Purchase: Amazon | Audible
In the tradition of Alan Furst, the #1 international bestselling author delivers his first stand-alone novel, a psychological thriller set in World War II Nazi Germany and 1970s England - British pilots James Teasdale and Bryan Young have been chosen to conduct a special photo-reconnaissance mission near Dresden, Germany. Intelligence believes the Nazis are building new factories that could turn the tide of the war. When their plane is shot down, James and Bryan know they will be executed if captured. With an enemy patrol in pursuit, they manage to jump aboard a train reserved for senior SS soldiers wounded on the eastern front.
In a moment of desperation, they throw two patients off the train and take their places, hoping they can escape later. But their act is too convincing and they end up in the Alphabet House, a mental hospital located far behind enemy lines, where German doctors subject their patients to daily rounds of shock treatments and experimental drugs. The pilots’ only hope of survival is to fake insanity until the war ends, but their friendship and courage are put to the ultimate test when James and Bryan realize they aren’t the only ones in the Alphabet House feigning madness. Millions of fans around the world—and in this country—know Adler-Olsen for his award-winning Department Q series. His first stand-alone, The Alphabet House, is the perfect introduction for those who have yet to discover his riveting work.
I am always drawn to tales set during World War II and could not help picking up The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Alphabet House is a psychological thriller about two British pilots who find themselves behind enemy lines. Their journey to survive finds them being admitted as patients in the Alphabet House, an asylum for Nazi officers. Adler-Olsen takes us on their harrowing journey during the war and after.
The Alphabet House is not a novel or audio you will consume in a single sitting. Froth with danger and unimaginable decisions the first half of the novel deals with events during the war and their stay at the Alphabet House. The second half begins almost thirty years and shares the consequences those years had on these men.
The characters Bryan and James are beautifully developed and Adler-Olsen brings their thoughts and emotions to life in a very realistic way. As I read, I feared for them, shrieked in horror and wondered what I would have done in their shoes. Secondary characters aided the stories and the villains gave me nightmares.
The tale is part thriller, part suspense but for the most part, it is each man’s perspective into his actions and the consequences. War is ugly, survival is not glamours especially wrapped in the ugliness of such an atrocious war. If you are a World War II buff and curious about what occurred in these German hospitals, you will both appreciate and cringe at detail Adler-Olsen delivered with this novel. Next, you will look at the author and wonder from what depths of the psyche his tale sprouted.
The pacing of the tale changes throughout the book and I times I listened or read for a few hours. During other parts, I would read a chapter or two and set it down. Yet, even as I read other books or did other activities James and Bryan were never far from my thoughts.
I received both an audio and finished copy of the Alphabet House and bounced back and forth between them. At times, I read along as I listened. Both formats are wonderful. Graeme Malcolm was the narrator and he did an excellent job with the voices and enhanced the atmospheric tones.
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