The Crimson Thread

Written by Kate Forsyth
Review by Katie Stine

The Crimson Thread is a welcome addition to the WWII genre. On Crete between 1941 and 1945, a young woman named Alenka must protect her mother and young brother when the Nazis arrive. Accustomed to international scholars, Alenka speaks English and German as well as her own dialect and, prior to the Nazi invasion, assisted the Allied forces who headquartered in the ancient palace of Ariadne. There, she meets Jack and Teddy, two Australian soldiers who have been friends since boyhood. Teddy is brash, wild, and fair-haired, while Jack is intellectual, thoughtful, and dark-haired. When the Nazis invade and occupy the island, Jack and Teddy aren’t able to make the evacuation. Stranded on Crete, they must do what they have to in order to survive, and Alenka struggles to help them and safeguard her role in the Cretan resistance, all the while trying to care for her younger brother, who is a Nazi sympathizer and informer.

This story has all the elements of a spy novel, a frontline war novel, and a wartime romance, all wrapped up in the mythology of the Minotaur, Theseus, and, of course, Ariadne. Through alternating perspectives, we see Alenka’s mythological knowledge and experience with Cretan culture, Teddy’s daredevil risks, and Jack’s careful and creative intelligence. The island of Crete is less of a setting and more of a character: with its forbidding, jutting peaks, its rare herbs, and ancient labyrinths, Forsyth’s Crete is a place of extraordinary feats and extraordinary people.

There are many wonderful WWII novels out there, and I would put The Crimson Thread among them. Highly recommended.