The Wolves in Winter (The Wolves WW2 Series)

Written by Philip K. Allan
Review by Valerie Adolph

Early in WW2, in order to help Russia with wartime shortages, Britain promised to send them food, ammunition and military equipment. As transport across Europe was impossible due to the war, the promised goods had to be delivered to Russia’s Arctic port of Murmansk. Convoys of freighters had to follow Norway’s coastline into the increasingly icy, stormy Arctic. In addition, U-boats were stationed, waiting, in a Norwegian fjord.

That is, in effect, the outline of this exciting and multilayered novel: convoys of merchant ships with naval escorts braving both U-boats and atrocious weather to deliver aid to Russia. But it isn’t just about the good guys outwitting the bad in a series of naval battles. We follow the crews of U-boats as well as Navy ships. We struggle with the classic irascible ship’s engineer desperate to keep an elderly, battered vessel seaworthy and safe—but the vessel is a U-boat.

The author takes a comprehensive look at many sides of battle preparation and the range of functions during combat. We are shown the quiet Norwegian teacher persuaded to spy on U-boat movements, and something more. Then we see the codebreakers at Bletchley Park grappling with word fragments to decode a new version of the Enigma code so they can save the lives of sailors. We are shown the strategies and shrewdness of both sides in this naval warfare and the value of experience as each tries to outwit their enemy and achieve their objectives. Not least we witness the bravery of those struggling to capture the updated Enigma machine.

It is my pleasure to read stories of naval strategy and men who go down to the sea in ships. This is one of the deepest and finest I have encountered.