Author: Andrew Taylor
Publication: Harper Collins, trade paperback, February 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Plot: From a bestselling author comes a World War Two tale of one boy’s fight for survival in Nazi Europe
A secret mission . . .
1939. As Europe teeters on the brink of war, businessman Alfred Kendall is asked to carry out a minor mission for the British Intelligence Service. Traveling to Prague, he takes his troubled young son, Hugh, as cover.
A terrible choice . . .
When Hitler invades Czechoslovakia, Alfred is given an ultimatum by the Czech Resistance. They will arrange for him to return to England, but only if he leaves his son Hugh behind as collateral.
A young boy stranded in Nazi terrain . . .
Hugh is soon taken under the wing of a Nazi colonel – Helmuth Scholl. But even though Scholl treats Hugh well, his son, Heinz, is suspicious of this foreigner. And as the war across the continent intensifies, they are set on a path that will ultimately lead towards destruction. . .
My Impressions: Not long ago my mother told me she had read and enjoyed a book called The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor. I don’t think she realized it was a sequel until after she had finished it but, once she realized, she told me to begin with the first book, The Ashes of London, which I did in December. Set during the Great Fire of London in 17th century London, it is well-written and an atmospheric page-turner. Thus, I was very pleased when TLC invited me to review The Second Midnight.
Most of the books I read about World War II feature a heroine so it was a change of pace for the main character of this book to be an adolescent boy. Hugh is an interesting character: when we meet him he is 12 and has just been (unfairly?) expelled from boarding school. Traveling to Prague with his verbally and physically abusive father, Hugh is fascinated by his exposure to a different culture and soon is studying Czech and modern history. This stands him in good stead when his father abandons him and this child has to scramble for survival. How he manages to stay alive and end up working for a Nazi colonel, who is kinder than his own father, is a compelling story. Hugh comes to love the colonel’s daughter Magda but war tears them apart. I have just a couple more chapters to go to see how this will end.
This book was originally published in Britain in 1988 and has now been reissued to take advantage of Taylor’s strong UK sales on his Marwood-Lovett series and (doubtless) the crazy for WWII settings. It is full of interesting characters, although some are very disagreeable indeed, particularly Hugh's siblings and father, while his mother was weak.
Off the Blog: Watching for Iowa Caucus results – glad my state has a primary!
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. Please visit other stops on the tour by clicking below: