Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements: With an ingenious twist in the tail, this is fact and fiction, history and mystery, action and humanity at its heart-thumping best - book review -

Hitler's Secret
Hitler's Secret

Maverick professor Tom Wilde has taken on some dangerous missions since he started spying for wartime Britain… but a cat-and-mouse chase through Nazi Germany is by far his deadliest yet.

Maverick professor Tom Wilde has taken on some dangerous missions since he started spying for wartime Britain… but a cat-and-mouse chase through Nazi Germany is by far his deadliest yet.

Former national newspaper journalist Rory Clements is giving the likes of Robert Harris and C.J Sansom a run for their money with his thrilling ‘what if’ historical novels starring a half-American, half-Irish Cambridge history don determined to do his bit for ‘peace and freedom.’

Best known for his gripping John Shakespeare Tudor espionage series, currently in development for television, Clements is a consummate historical novelist. His work is underpinned by extensive research and rich period detail, and this wartime series has won an army of fans with its fast-paced international mysteries, full of menace and intrigue, and starring a stunning mix of real and fictional characters.

Hitler’s Secret is the fourth book in this outstanding series, which includes the brilliant Corpus, Nucleus and Nemesis, and has moved from the febrile atmosphere of pre-war Europe into the autumn of 1941 when the Nazi war machine is devouring Russia, and Britain and its allies are struggling to contain it.

Lead player is Tom Wilde, an unconventional professor whose speciality is Sir Francis Walsingham and the Elizabethan secret service, and whose loves include motorbiking, boxing, bird-watching … and 20th century espionage.

In the autumn of 1941, the world is on a knife-edge and the Germans are sweeping through the Soviet Union. If Hitler is to be stopped, a new weapon is desperately needed.

In Cambridge, Professor Tom Wilde is approached by an American intelligence officer who claims to know of such a weapon… one so secret even Hitler himself isn’t aware of its existence. If Wilde, who has been learning German for the past two years, can smuggle a package out of Germany, the Third Reich will surely fall.

But it is only when he is deep behind enemy lines that Wilde discovers why the Nazis are so desperate to prevent the 'package' falling into Allied hands. And as ruthless killers hunt him through Europe, a treacherous question hangs over the mission: if Hitler's secret will win them the war, why is Wilde convinced it must remain hidden?

Although reluctant to leave his beloved partner Lydia Morris and their baby son Johnny, Wilde agrees to pose as Tomas Esser, an American industrialist of German heritage, who is sympathetic to the Nazis, and travel to Berlin to sell Hitler’s regime a fuel technology innovation that could transform the Nazi war effort.

But after what seems to be a successful meeting with Hitler’s all-powerful private secretary, Martin Bormann, Wilde discovers the shocking truth that the ‘package’ is actually a person, and the real reason why the Nazis will stop at nothing to prevent this person leaving Germany.

Meanwhile, Bormann has sent his ruthless assassin Otto Kalt to hunt down not just the ‘package’ but anyone who might have knowledge of it. With Kalt – a man who ‘can shed blood with no more flicker or emotion than if he were killing a pig’ – on his trail, Wilde makes a desperate gamble on an unlikely escape route.

But even if he reaches England alive, that will not be the end of his ordeal. Wilde is now convinced that the truth he has discovered must remain hidden, even if it means betraying the country he loves…

Cool-hand academic Tom has to be one of historical fiction’s most charismatic adventurers… as intrepid as he is intellectually gifted, the unorthodox, US-born professor has thankfully acquired an engaging insouciance and British stiff upper lip stoicism which stand him in good stead as he encounters some of Hitler’s most ruthless henchmen.

And in this gripping, white-knuckle escape bid across Germany – with a secret ‘package’ that could change the course of the war – Tom must use both his brains and his brawn to outsmart lethal villains and a nation whose collective mind has been warped by propaganda.

Entertaining, eye-opening, and featuring the bitter internal rivalries of leading Nazi figures like Heinrich Himmler, Herman Goering and Martin Bormann, Clements’ gripping new Tom Wilde adventure paints a breathtakingly authentic portrait of country at the mercy of unbridled power, bone-chilling terror and widespread paranoia.

And with an ingenious twist in the tail, this is fact and fiction, history and mystery, action and humanity at its heart-thumping best.

(Zaffre, hardback, £12.99)