The exciting premise of this book is to take two German children who have escaped the Nazis and send them back into harm’s way. They have a special mission to kidnap a girl, and the agent who recruits them tells them the war may come to an end if they succeed. What follows is a high octane thriller: plenty of chases, escapes and tension, which begin just about on this side of believable, but escalate to Bond-scale improbability as the protagonists eviscerate an entire crack SS unit on the snowy slopes of the Alps.
There is plenty to like in terms of pace and adventure, but the book fails for me on the emotional level. The heart of the story from the children’s point of view is the fate of their families, and one of the characters does return home, but the scene is not resolved satisfactorily and probably could not be. Our sentiments are also engaged by the girl who is kidnapped, but the plot then simplifies down to whether or not she will survive, and the author makes the wrong choice. Are these editorial errors? Perhaps. There are a couple of careless scenes that I felt could have been easily improved, and some lines that I would certainly have wanted rewritten: ‘Otto hadn’t moved a centimetre or a muscle for the last ten minutes.’ But it is the emotional arc that I felt was really out of kilter – so much so that my son did not read the last two chapters.
Will appeal to boys of 11 plus.