Thursday, 28 July 2022

The Wolves In Winter by Philip K. Allan

Reviewer's Choice

Nautical adventure
WWII 1940s
Europe

#2 of The Wolves WW2 Series

“Summer 1941 - Hitler launches his surprise assault on the Soviet Union. As German Panzers drive deep into the heart of Russia, the Red Army is desperate for help that can only be delivered through convoys of Allied merchant ships sent through the bitter Arctic. But appalling weather and deadly cold are not the only dangers awaiting the crew of the little escort ship HMS Protea. They must run the gauntlet of attacks by German aircraft and surface raiders, as well as the wolfpacks of U-boats waiting for them amid the ice.
Following on from Sea of Wolves, the Wolves in Winter plots the lives of those caught up on both sides. J├╝rgen Bortfeldt, the music-loving commander of U-133, struggling to control the tensions amongst his divided officers. Jan Pedersen, a member of the Norwegian resistance, fighting the enemy occupying his country in whatever way he can. And Vera Baldwin, the skilled codebreaker at Britain’s Bletchley Park and the unseen hand guiding the Protea and her convoys through the dangers crowding around them.
Triumph and tragedy await them all in a battle fought across the roof of the world.”

What an exciting read this has been. Philip K Allan has obviously put many hours into the research for this meticulous World War II novel, which he has based on true events. But it is not just the military detail that makes it so good, nor the descriptions of being in a bitterly cold and hostile environment or even life in the cramped conditions of a submarine, it is the way we are able to get to know the characters and empathise with them. As, in real life, there is more than one group of protagonists in this story; in fact there are four who all play a crucial role. 

In the first chapter we meet Captain Jurgen Bortfeldt the broad-minded and experienced German commander of the U-boat U-133 and become acquainted with him and his crew. Then we meet Vera Baldwin and her colleagues struggling to break the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park. The next are the first lieutenant of the corvette HMS Protea, Leonard Cole, his commander and the crew, and our fourth focus of attention is on a Norwegian resistance group based in the north of Norway. Each, in their own way is portrayed as determined, tenacious and indefatigable in the pursuit of their task. Mr Allan skilfully moves the story between these four groups of protagonists to produce a tense, nail biting description of the events of 1941 when ships like the HMS Protea were deployed to protect merchant ships taking supplies to the Russians via the Artic, and the U-boats were ordered to prevent this from happening.

For lovers of World War II fiction this is a must read, but it has a wider appeal as well because the characters are so well described that we come to warm to them all, whichever side they are on. In this book Mr Allan draws a clear picture of the barbarity of war but also emphasises the humanity of the participants, who through no fault of their own are caught up in the maelstrom of war. So much so that when it come to the exciting and vivid finale, we don't want any of them to die. 

An excellent book Mr Allan.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds

© Joan Fallon
 e-version reviewed

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