Name: Island Reich
Author: Jack Grimwood
Genre: Thriller, History
So for this review, I will be taking a look at Island Reich which was one of the books that I had for Christmas this year which I posted on Instagram (if you would like to follow me on there then click here).
Island Reich is set in the spring / summer of 1940 as Nazi Germany swept through Europe at the early stages of World War Two and occupied the channel islands of Alderney, Jersey and Guernsey.
The first five chapters are each a page long and set up a great deal of the characters and events. In the first chapter a teenage Jewish girl is fleeing Paris with her mother as the Nazis invade when her mother is killed by a bomb dropped from the Nazi planes. In the meantime there is an assassination attempt on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who are also in Paris fleeing themselves (namely, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are the abdicated King Edward VIII and his American divorcee wife, Wallis Simpson).
The third chapter introduces Bill who is the hero of the story but at this point he is somewhat an anti-hero as we see he is a thief and a burglar. Meanwhile in Germany, Colonel Von Neudeck is summoned by Hermann Goering to go to Alderney which the Nazis have taken control over . There is a lot of information during those early chapters and the book has a fast paced style as it moves between the various characters.
The central plot however is Bill is serving time in prison for a robbery when he is given an offer, to help the British Secret Service by going to Alderney to crack the Nazi’s safe which contains Hitler’s invasion plans for Britain and bring them back and to do this he is to take on the identity of Sir William Renhou, an Alderney islander who is well know on the island and is friends with The Duke of Windsor.
Meanwhile The Duke and Duchess of Windsor successfully escape to Spain but are locked in a diplomatic battle between Britain and Germany. Winston Churchill wants them to return to Britain or to take up a position as Governor of the Bahamas. Meanwhile, Hitler wants the Duke to join him and help him invade Britain, with the promise him and Wallis will be crowned King and Queen.
The story is a very riveting and action-packed read which moves at a fast pace, and is like a spy movie. Grimwood merges fact with fiction in this novel to create a novel which is fictional but actually has just enough credibility that you do wonder where the boundary crosses which I really enjoyed and does make me want to read more about the true history of the novels events.
The central characters of Bill, Daisy and Mignon are all fantastic and you do root for all three of them during the novel. Bill being a character who is running away from his past but is hoping to reform from it, Mignon being the young Jewish girl who loses everything in a war where she has no say and Daisy who is a complicated person leading a double life
I also quite liked how Grimwood portrays the villains in the novel. It can be quite easy in fictional war stories to make the Nazi’s one note but aside from Keller who is quite firmly a villain, most of the characters are actually quite well rounded – for instance with Von Neudeck you actually get the impression he doesn’t want to be there and is just doing so out of a soldier’s duty, nothing more which I won’t spoil anything about here but it does make for some interesting characters and dynamics.
Also as I’m a massive James Bond fan there is a character at the end of the novel who is a real life person connected to Bond and I would love to know how truthful their involvement was.
I would say my only two flaws with the novel is the beginning chapters which I’ve described above, as they are very short and quite jarring which made it tricky for me at the beginning to get into the novel. I would also add as well the the fast changes of characters and location might not be for everyone but aside from the first few chapters I actually quite like the fast paced changes as it kept the tension and got me through to the end.
The other thing which is a slight thing but during the sections where it is the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in some of the earlier chapters Grimwood has a habit of mentioning Wallis Simpson by her full name, even after she has been re-introduced (if the novel has gone elsewhere). For example, it will have sentences such as “Wallis Simpson said” or “Wallis Simpson walked into the room” which is sometimes a bit annoying as I remember thinking I already know it’s Wallis Simpson, you can shorten it to “Wallis said” but that does drop during the rest of the novel.
Overall I enjoyed the read and if you fancy a classic spy story set in the Second World War I would definitely recommend this one. If you have read it let me know in the comments down below what you think.