Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman
Book Two of the Prisoner of Night and Fog series
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.
But then, Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside-down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped-and return to her homeland.
Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture and recognition, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time-or will Hitler discover them first?
What I Liked:
I liked this one, but unfortunately for me, I didn't like it as much as I'd hoped, as much as I'd liked Prisoner of Night and Fog. I wasn't really feeling the first half of the book, and while things definitely picked up in the second half of the book, I didn't love what was happening. Nevertheless, I thought this book was a decent sequel, and I'll most like be reading the third novel in the series.
This novel starts with Gretchen - now Gretchen Whitestone - living in England, with a gentleman Alfred and his family. They treat her like she's their daughter, despite being with them for only seventeen months, from Germany. Daniel works in England at a newspaper (or post, or something like that), but he's miserable. He's always wanted to go back to Berlin, even though he can't. But when he gets word that a relative, Aaron, has been killed, Daniel goes back to Germany - and naturally, Gretchen is right behind him. But Daniel is a wanted man in Germany, framed for the murder of a young prostitute girl. Together, Gretchen and Daniel hunt down evidence to clear Daniel's name, but it's not so easy with conspiracies and raids ans Nazis left and right.
The first half was entirely too slow for me, and to be honest, I found the plot to be a bit forced. Obviously, the author needs some sort of push, a plot twist, in order to send Gretchen and Daniel back to Germany. It's a legitimate push, but I thought it felt a bit forced. Historically speaking, it made sense, and could very well have happened, but like I said - forced.
The second half was a product of the first half and its forcefulness, but it seemed to retain some of the high stakes, heart-pounding thrill that Prisoner of Night and Fog had. In the first half, Daniel and Gretchen return to Germany, and they're on the run, because Daniel is a wanted man. They find the house that the prostitute had been staying at, and attempt to find the girl's belongings. But they're caught, and a gang takes them. But the gang is apparently a ring of men looking for justice (or something), and keep Daniel and Gretchen on the hunt for the prostitute's things, to clear Daniel's name. There is also a connection with Hitler and several of the officials under his thumb.
I found that whole thing (with the rather nice gang) to be completely unbelievable and unrealistic, but that's just me. More on that later. The second half picked up a bit, and there was plenty of action and thrill. There were so many times when Gretchen and Daniel were separated, and I couldn't turn pages quickly enough. Gretchen does indeed have to face Hitler again, whether she likes it or not.
The romance is in the background, and I liked it, especially for a sequel novel. Gretchen and Daniel are not a perfect couple, and are often plagued with insecurities about the future. Daniel hates living in England, but Gretchen doesn't want to live in Germany. Both cannot live without the other, but both are not comfortable in one place or the other. The romance was one thing that solidly worked for me in this book.
Overall, I liked this book, but I didn't love it. This historical time period greatly frightens me, and sometimes I wonder if I should have ever picked this series up to begin with. But I'm glad I did. I can't wait to see how Blankman wraps things up!
What I Did Not Like:
As mentioned above, I didn't like the first half of the book. It was boring, it was slow, it didn't seem right to me. The plot points seemed forced, like something was literally being shoved into the story in order to move it along. We know Gretchen and Daniel have to find their way back in Germany somehow, but I wasn't entirely convinced by how it was done.
I also was not believing the part after Daniel and Gretchen get caught in Fraulein Fleischer's office, in which an Iron First ring or something takes Gretchen and Daniel, and spares them. The ring allows them to continue looking for the real murderer of the prostitute. Neither Daniel nor Gretchen are hurt in this whole process. I find this hard to believe, even if the gang had a political motive. Somehow, it was too lucky and too convenient.
There were times when Gretchen bothered me so much. There are specific instances that I want to name, but that would be spoiling things, and I don't want to do that. But, there were other times when I was really cheering for Gretchen. This book is written in third person limited (to Gretchen), so it's not always clear what Gretchen is thinking. Sometimes, I wanted to slap her and tell her to get a hold of herself. She panics a lot, and there is no room for panic in war.
There is a lot less of Hitler in this book, which is to be expected, since Gretchen isn't living around him anymore. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. I personally wanted to see more of him in this book, because he's creepy and an strangely interesting character, but that's just me. He is present at the climax of the book, making a short appearance.
In any case. There were things I disliked, there were things I liked. This one gets a solid three stars.
Would I Recommend It:
If you enjoyed the first book, definitely read this sequel! It's an adequate sequel, certainly not the worst sequel possible. If you haven't read the first book, perhaps wait until the third book is published. Or skip the series. It's a powerful series, but not one for everyone, that's for sure. I don't generally like historical fiction of the twentieth century, but this series is okay!
3 stars. Not enough for me to dislike the book, but not enough for me to sing its praises. I'll be reading the third book (hopefully), to know how it all goes down! I'm very familiar with this time period in history, so I'm curious as to how Blankman will end this series, especially in terms of the historical connection.
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