by Anne Perry
Series: Elena Standish #1
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
In the start of an all-new mystery series set in pre-World War II Europe, an intrepid young photographer carries her imperiled lover's final, urgent message into the heart of Berlin as Hitler ascends to power.
On vacation from London on the beautiful Italian coast, twenty-eight-year-old Elena Standish and her older sister Margot have finally been able to forget some of the lasting trauma of the Great War. Touring with her camera in hand, Elena has found new inspiration in the striking Italian landscape, and she's met an equally striking man named Ian. Not ready to part from one another, she and Ian share a train trip home to England. But a shocking murder disrupts their agenda, forcing Elena to personally deliver a message to Berlin that could change the fate of Europe.
Back home, Elena's diplomat father and secretive grandfather--the former head of MI6, unbeknownst to his family--are involved in their own international machinations. Working behind the scenes as Elena tries to complete her mission on the ground, they interfere with a crucial political rally for one of Germany's most outspoken fascists. With Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich on the rise, and Elena caught in the middle of an international incident, anyone she encounters might be part of a deadly plot.
In the first novel of a riveting new series by bestselling author Anne Perry, family secrets merge with suspense on the world stage, and Elena learns that, in these complicated times, no one can be trusted, and she must learn to rely only on herself.
Sophia Rose is here with a brand new series from Anne Perry. Death in Focus, the first in the Elena Standish historical mysteries. Grab a cup of tea and check it out….
Sophia Rose’s Review
First there were her Victorians and then her WWI thrillers, but the latest new series is set an exciting and edgy pre-dawn of WWII. An intrepid heroine who thought of herself as rather average and the family failure until a dying spy gives her a quest that sends her into the heart of the Nazis to save her country from war.
Elena Standish failed her family and herself when she fell in love with a man who betrayed their country and her. She was a top prospect for the foreign office and following in her father’s footsteps until this err in judgment got her dismissed. Her father’s disappointment and anger with her is still palpable and she doesn’t blame him. She never was his favorite child after her flamboyant and gorgeous sister and her eager and fun brother. So she turns her focus to her photography gift and seeks to make something of that.
I enjoyed following along as Elena, scared and unsure, determined to do the right thing. She got lucky many times, but she also showed some temerity when most people would have been curled in a ball in the corner after experiencing what she did.
The author’s gift to paint a strong and accurate backdrop and full-faceted culture of the time was as powerful as ever. I think it was what really pulled me into this book the most. Through Elena’s eyes, the time before WWII in Berlin and greater Germany and Europe was laid out, turbulent and terrifying for some and still recovering from the last Great War for all. There was cruelty and fear and a world gone crazy as she witnessed a book burning, the ‘brown shirts’ (Hitler followers) who are little better than street thugs bullying regular citizens, the insane people in power around Hitler, torture of anyone not perfectly Aryan or willing to tow the party line.
Then there was the tolerance and looking the other way to prevent war ‘at any cost’ attitude among the English was tough to read. It was chilling how many in power actually supported Hitler because they feared the communists as worse. I get their feelings of terror and revulsion of another World War since many of those people lost loved ones and some hit harder with multiple losses like Elena’s brother dying in the war and also her sister Margot’s husband. They really thought there was a chance to keep the peace.
Beyond Elena’s amateur espionage adventure into Germany, this book had strong secondary story lines involving the rest of her family from her secretive grandparents and their ties to MI-6, her parents with their diplomatic ties, her sister trying to stay on top of her grief and help Elena, and the slew of other characters peopling this one. I could see where the large cast of characters were introduced and will be an ongoing part of the series.
I figured out the who easily, but I was surprised as to the why when it came to the murders. This read like a thriller and there was some exciting series of climaxes including the final one that revealed all. The book ended somewhat abruptly, but didn’t leave any major plot threads go unanswered.
All in all, I’m pretty excited about this new series and can’t wait for more murder and espionage in the next book. Historical mystery/thriller fans should definitely give this one a look see.
Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library
Back in college I literally bought all of the Thomas Pitte books because I loved the covers and was so sure I’d love the books. I was so disappointed when I finally tried them and really didn’t’ like them! I keep meaning to try her more recent books but haven’t gotten over that betrayal!
Oh no!!! I do that. I buy all the books and haven’t even started a series yet. And, I’ve given away a whole series when it disappointed. Maybe you’ll like Elena’s story better. 🙂
Sharon B Myers
You should give the William monk series a try. can’t express how fabulous it is. Kind of like the Harry Potter books in that you are transported into another world. You see London in the mid-nineteenth century through the minds of the three lead characters. Do read them in order, however because like the Harry Potter books, it is a continuous storyline.
I did read a lot of books during WWII but it’s been a while. I love them because they’re so interesting. And we have a lot of history here and things to visit so it’s always really touching.
Yeah, you live right in the middle of all those places. It would be neat to see some of the big historic spots to go with the story.
Great review Sophia
Thanks, Sherry! I had a good time reading it.
I like earlier Anne Perry books. Someday I hope to get farther in her work. Wonderful review!
Glad you like them, too, Anne. There are some wonderful ones in those early books- and in her later releases, too. 🙂 This one is a first in series that isn’t attached to the other series if you decide you want to go for it.
Lisa R. Howeler
I enjoyed this review and it’s made me want to look the book up! Thank you for sharing it!
Ahhh, glad you enjoyed it, Lisa. Hope you like it if you get the chance to pick it up.
Debbie S Haupt
Fantastic review and my favorite reading period. You know I”ve never read her but I just got her upcoming holiday title A Christmas Gathering to review for Mystery Scene Magazine. Thanks Sophia Rose
Oh yay! I’m glad you’re trying one of her books. The holiday ones are lighter and are really cool b/c they’re about secondary characters. I think I have that one for review, too. 🙂
Ooh sounds like a great start to a new series. I find WWII era fiction to be interesting, so it’s cool this is pre-War.
It was really cool because it was that time right on the verge of war when Hitler is setting up to invade other countries and Mussolini is in power and all of Europe is holding its breath. 🙂
How amateur can she be if her grandpa’s in secret service?
She doesn’t know they were retired secret service and they can’t tell her because of the Official Secrets Act. The reader does because of a separate narrator point of view for the grandfather. It’s all very exciting. 🙂
I’m actually implying that if her family has good deductive skills, she’s gonna be a whiz at crime solving too. Which I hope it’s the case
Oh! Gotcha! Yeah, you’re right about that. Her dad’s in the foreign office and handles difficult matters, too, so you’re right about it being passed down in the family, Ailyn!