Transgression: A Novel of Love and War

Written by James W. Nichol
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

In 1941, in German-occupied France, 16-year-old Adele Georges meets Manfred Halder. Halder, a 19-year-old German working as a clerk, offers to help Adele find information about her missing father, a doctor who served in the French medical corps. The attraction between the two is palpable. They fall in love and begin a desperate affair that causes joy and grief to both.

In 1946, in Canada, a young girl finds a finger in the woods. The police chief suspects there is a entire body to be found as well, and begins an investigation for the corpse and the murder that created it.

The murder investigation progresses slowly, hour by hour, alternating with the story of Adele and Manfred and the war in Europe. When the war ends and Adele moves to Canada, the plots merge. The ending is fast-paced and gripping. Which character is the corpse and which is the murderer?

This is a brilliantly constructed novel of good people trying to do good things, surrounded by war, hatred and bigotry. Nichol perfectly captures the sense of hope and hopelessness of those in the midst of war, as well as the pain and terror that continue after the war has ended. It is a heart-wrenching, haunting, beautiful book.