The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen

March 13th, 2015 Kimberly Review 43 Comments

13th Mar
The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen
The Alphabet House
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Narrator: Graeme Malcom
Length: 15 hrs and 37 mins
Genres: Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction, Suspense Thriller
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star
Narration: 4 cups

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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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

43 Responses to “The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen”

  1. Lindsay

    I’ve read the first two Department Q mysteries and I really enjoyed the first one, the second was good, and I’ll look out for this one too.

  2. Lorna

    I have read books from this time period but really try to steer clear of ones that take place in Germany.I couldn’t watch Schindlers List for this reason. I am a wimp when it comes to that. Recently I read The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah and loved it so much. It takes place in France during WWII and is about when the Germans occupied France. She’s a favorite author of mine and I read it for review, but normally I wouldn’t have read this one either. And I would have missed out on a great read. If you haven’t read this, you should! Do I sound like a commercial? lol Glad you loved this one 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah is on my wishlist!

  3. Katherine

    This sounds really good! I love books set during World War 2 and I really like the mix of thriller and survival. Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to look for this in either audio or print.

  4. Melissa (Books and Things)

    I have wanted to try that… read and listen to a book at different places in the book. I haven’t done that yet. I think that in a way this would almost be too much for me but on the other hand, I do love it when a book opens us up to what is important to think about during different historical periods. Hm… will have to think on this.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I love books that make me think and feel too Melissa, and gives us a look into the past

  5. Sarah

    This sounds like a fantastic thriller! I have read a few holocust themed thrillers and boy do they give me nightmares. Hard to imagine such atrocious experiments actually took place in the not so far away past.. *shudder* Not sure I could read this but I have a friend who digs physiological thrillers and would love to read it. Great review! 🙂

  6. Heidi

    I always enjoy books set in this era as well. I read another review for this recently and I think I am going to have to try this one. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Sweet, enjoy Heidi I am sure you will appreciate this one

  7. Lily

    I’ve got a list of thrillers I’ve wanted to get too (for a while) but none of them in this time period, so i’m especially intrigued! Lovely review Kim 🙂

  8. Ramona

    I admire your capacity to consume books irrespective of genre. You’re a literary omnivore. I love the idea of bouncing between the formats of a book. Another great review 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I always have at least one book and one audio going at the same time..and yes I will read almost anything in the fictional genres.

  9. Lauren

    This sounds like it might be a difficult read, but a fascinating one. Like Jenny I think my Dad would enjoy this one. Thanks for your thoughtful review! I think I might get it for him on audio.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      War is dark, but it is more about the men themselves and it was just fascinating Lauren

  10. Jenny

    I think this is something my dad would really enjoy Kim! He’s always up for a great thriller, and this is a time period he’s always fascinated by. Definitely going to make sure this goes on his list!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I hope you pick it up for him…maybe Father’s Day 🙂

  11. Ro

    You go girl! This review is right on point making me want to go out and grab this thriller because it sounds truly intriguing. Thanks so much! Hugs…

  12. Red Iza

    Wow, great review, and the subject of the book is very interesting !

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was really interesting and a look into the characters as much as the era

  13. Benish

    Yaaayyy, I’m so happy to hear you really liked this one as well! It’s such an amazing book.. I agree that I didn’t finish this in one setting too, I actually needed time to adjust to what I have just read. I loved reading your review x

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I am glad to see you needed time in between reading this. It was wonderfully done

  14. Melliane

    I’m a little like you I’m always intrigued by a book during this period even if it’s true that I don’t read a lot of them anymore. But now I’m curious about this one as well, and it’s nice to have a good thriller. thanks for the discovery!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I really enjoyed how this was split and the details.