The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
A follow up to Black Roses, Jane Thynne's earlier novel about an English actress in Berlin in the late nineteen thirties who infiltrates the circle of elite Nazi wives and is recruited by the British secret service, The Winter Garden focuses on the murder of a young woman in an SS Bride School. It's an inspired choice of setting - I had no idea such institutions even existed.
The characters are boldly drawn with the Nazi women all strutting about in their finery, each obsessively jealous of her proximity to Hitler. There are even a couple of delicious cameo roles for Diana and Unity Mitford. Thynne takes the opportunity to highlight the systematic way in which these women conspired to promulgate a Nazi model of femininity that revolved around a sentimental and claustrophobic notion of motherhood and domesticity.
It's extremely well-researched and there are some wonderful incidental details, like the words of the Nazi version of the Lord's Prayer that began, 'My Furher, I know you well and love you like my father and mother. The plot is just a little over-engineered for my taste, especially as it builds towards the, admittedly, gripping, climax. But this is a clever, funny, tense and thoroughly enjoyable historical thriller.