The Hunting Ground

Written by J. Robert Janes
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

Best known for his St-Cyr and Kohler mysteries, Janes is on familiar Nazi-occupied French ground in this wartime thriller told by Lily de St-Germain. With an English father and passport, Lily begins the war hoping to convince her husband to abandon his work at the Louvre to move their young family to England. But she finds him in an affair with her younger sister and in league with the invaders. When she tries to trade earrings for passage, she meets a dashing American who brings her reluctantly into schemes, including one to steal priceless art treasures back from the Nazis.

Told by a narrator who is “scared all the time” and portentously pointing to future horrors, The Hunting Ground alleviates scenes of unbearable tension with poetic and poignant moments and exquisite details of decorative arts and clothing. The opening invocation of “To the past there is but the present” holds true in style and substance as Lily returns to the scene of her wartime activity with vengeance in mind. Scorched by grim experience and as a casualty of the concentration camps, she often lives in various parts of her past as she struggles to set traps for the people who tortured or betrayed her. This can make for rough going for all but the most attentive of readers, but Lily’s harrowing story proves worth the effort.