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Book Review: Night Crossing by Robert Ryan

Some readers have strong natural inclination toward war fiction books. They would pick up a book by looking at its cover not even bothering to read what was written at the back. The love for war fiction is as good as a good addiction. Every time readers pick up the book thinking that the book is based on a war, that there will be military, spies, love affair with a stranded woman, some trying to escape the POW camps and so on. Mostly, war fiction books are same with themes and plots but still they go ahead because in the war fiction book intensity is something that separates the book from its own heap.

Robert Ryan isn’t a famous writer of war fiction like Ken Follet and some others, but still his books on war are quite prevalent among serious readers. The timeline of Night Crossing stretches from pre-war days to the end of Hitler and the war. The story is entwined between some Germans and a few British characters. Ross Cameron is in the police service. He visits Germany to investigate a British businessman’s murder mystery, and then there he meets the Walter family and Canaris.

There he meets and then falls in love with a young musician Ulrike Walter. But she is engaged to Erich, who is enlisted in Hitler Youth force. In 1939 when the war breaks out their lives begin to disintegrate, Nazism proves to be as cruel to Jews as to some of its citizens. And musicians, sadly, were under no exceptions. Ulrike and her father flee the country but never reach British to meet Ross, their only hope. Rather they are put under the scrutiny of POWIS (Prisoner of War Intelligent Service). With refugees many German are also trying to enter the country and British is adamant to stop all of them. In the process, the duo of daughter and father gets pissed off. The reality and misery of the war is something that is causing havoc on their simple lives. Their only fault is that they are musicians and didn’t opt to stand up with the rising Nazism in Germany.

On the other hand, Erich is so much indulged into nationalism initiated by Nazism that he almost breaks the engagement with her before joining the U-boat 40. It is surprising that Erich does nothing for the safety of Ulrike and her father. Thus, her only hope is Cameron Ross. But before that she needs to cross the barriers laid by the refugee camps and the interrogation teams.

Ross’s father Colonel Ross is a high-rank officer in the British Secret Services. He wants to use his son to obtain details from Canaris, officer in the German secret intelligence, and also a grey anti-Hitler member. So, he is with the Allies to bring down Hitler. The life of refugees is hard under cold circumstances and German citizens under suspicion are being sent to Canada instead of accepting in England. Ross concerned for Ulrike, writes to her but to no avail. Soon Ross gets badly injured in an air raid, hospitalized for many months.

Germany’s U-boat continues troubling and sinking other nations’ ships and subs by using torpedoes. The situation between Germans and the Brits get really serious. With passage of time Erich becomes sick with the claustrophobia and monotonous routine of the sub. His past life begins haunting him and he begins losing faith in Nazism. Erich and his boss Schuller lose the battle in the ship and they both deliberately become the prisoners of war to ultimately land on the British soil. They are planning mayhem in British.

Soon, Ross begins searching Ulrike. She has been transferred to Canada. Ross fetches her back after much tussling with the departments. They unite and fall in love again, but Ulrike is worried about Erich. She being a German citizen finds it tough to get accepted by the people of British. Schuller and Erich with an intention of causing civil unrest in British break the prison and tries to reach the sub but their plan fail miserably. They both are sent to a concentration camp, where Schuller suspecting Erich of betrayal kills him brutally.

Ulrike grows sad and melancholy upon hearing the news of Erich’s death. She thinks that Ross was behind it. But he dismisses the allegations.

This book is quite different than other war fiction books because it is based on true events, up to ninety percent. Rather than battlefields and military and mass, this book is more concerned about raising the voices of some characters in the heat of war and its vain glory. The book gets really interesting after half-way, till then it is bit yank and full of German military terminology. Language, narration and writing are all superb.


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