In the tradition of Alan Furst, the #1 international bestselling author of the Department Q series 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.
First published in Denmark in 1997, Adler-Olsen's debut is a very different sort of thriller from his Department Q series (The Marco Effect, etc.): it recounts the harrowing odyssey of two British airmen shot down behind enemy lines during WWII and subsequently held captive, under assumed German identities, in a hellish mental hospital for SS officers. Only one of the two can actually speak German, and their struggle to survive electroshock therapy, experimental drugs, and brutal treatment from staff and fellow inmates makes the first half of the book punishing reading. A long-deferred day of reckoning arrives for several characters some 30 years later during the ill-fated 1972 Munich Olympics. Although the daring (if far-fetched) plot, sustained suspense, and caustic view of society all hint at the author's later work, this meticulously researched historical journey won't be to every taste.
Customer ReviewsSee All
On the fence
I downloaded this book completely by accident. After just finished reading the latest English translated novel from the department Q series I was so eager to move on to the next one that I stupidly downloaded this one without reading any info. Once I started reading it, I realized my mistake. With that being said, after a few days, I decided to give it a go. It didn't fully grasp my attention at first but once I got about 1/3 of the way I was hooked. It is a great read and I agree with the other reviewer, there's a few details on world war 2 that I never realized or even heard of. The author did a great job with the research. I didn't care for the time lapse, I thought it was to big and I hated the ending. I understand that the dynamics of the situation will of court change things but it was a huge change. The translation could've been better as well. All in all, a great read. You feel all sorts of things when it comes to the 2 protagonists in the story, fear, triumph, anger, etc. many would enjoy reading this.
Extremely interesting, I felt as if I were in the room with them watching this all happen.
Thought provoking ...
Midway (if not sooner) through all of Mr. Adler-Olsen's books I reach a point where I can't put the book down and want to stay up all night finishing it. This one was no different - interesting, affecting characters that you care about and protagonists that you may fear and hate. A different read from the wonderful Department Q series, but I am glad the author researched and wrote this - it gave me insight into facets of WW II that I hadn't known about, and I enjoyed it very much.