The Black Orchestra

JJ Toner
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Genres: Military and Espionage, Historical Fiction, Thrillers and Suspense. Format: eBook. Views: This Week 70, Total 2628.
It is 1940. The German war machine is devouring Western Europe. In Berlin, a military intelligence signalman discovers a colleague lying dead at his radio receiver. This is the story of one man’s journey through darkness to enlightenment. A cracking spy story, it is a tale of corruption and redemption, of fear and courage, of loyalty and betrayal and of love.
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Very Good Story, Very Well Written, Recommended, Well Edited in 4 reviews.
Paul Smith : The story is different and only Fatherland by Robert Harris comes close in my opinion. It is told from the German side of the fence by an insider, working for the German war machine and gives a quite different perspective to the one provided by history lessons of the UK curriculum.

I found the story full of suspense, intrigue, romance and not a little hypocrisy. It is a compelling story and the violence, when it is employed is appropriate and necessary to demonstrate the story plot.

This is a book I really couldn't put down and felt very deflated when I'd finished. When's the sequel due Mr Toner?

Ian Miller : This starts with Kurt Müller, a Leutnant in the Abwehr noticing that Kleister, and Abwehr agent, dead at his desk due, seemingly, to a bullet in the back of the head. The KRIPO declare this a suicide, but Kurt does not see how anyone could kill himself that way so he begins to ask questions. After some time, he is taken by the Gestapo, beaten up, questioned, but let go. Apparently Kurt is a nephew of Reinhard Heydrich. I will not go any further because to do so would spoil the story, which is particularly plot-driven, except to note there is a group of people comprising "The Black Orchestra", and these have come to the attention of the Gestapo. The writing is taut, and while I do not really know, the descriptions of Germany in the first two years of WW II seem to be believable. There are prolonged action sequences that are well-written (with one reservation) that maintain good tension, while the characters of Kurt and his friends are well-drawn. With these considerations alone, this is clearly a five-star book.

However, the book is a historical novel, and historical details should be followed reasonably. You are at war, an agent is dead in the major intelligence-gathering organization, so who should show some interest? Don't you think "spy" or "enemy agent" might cross someone's mind? If so, the SD would become involved immediately. A Gestapo agent beats up a nephew of Heydrich regarding a matter the SD should be the investigating agent. Really? At that time, beat up a relation of Heydrich, and you had better have a good reason. Then, when Heydrich finds out what has happened, nothing happens? Really? Later, when Kurt is in Ireland, there is a prolonged action sequence that reads as a very exciting account, until you stop and realize that the opposition could not conceivably be so inept. Then, at the end, you learn how Kleister died. Apart from the fact that "why?", and everything surrounding it, is left up in the air, the KRIPO investigation makes no sense.

To sum up, this is well-written as long as you do not think to hard about the background, it is exciting, the characters (apart from Heydrich and the Gestapo) are plausible, but there are strands that are left floating.

Doug McKittrick : JJ Toner has crafted a quick-paced, action-filled spy thriller. I usually read several books at the same time (I get to a place where I want to read something else). Not this one! I read The Black Orchestra straight through in three evenings. The pace is non-stop and Toner held my interest the entire time. Having lived in Berlin, I particularly enjoyed the locale of the story. Very enjoyable!