The Mysterious Bookshop

Schumacher, Tony, The Darkest Hour

Schumacher debuts with an action-thriller alternate history set in Nazi-occupied London, 1946.At the outbreak of World War II, John Henry Rossett was the London police force's top "thief-taker." After heroic soldiering at Dunkirk and a last-ditch stand in England, Rossett was freed from a POW camp and readmitted to the force, but with his wife and son killed in a Resistance bombing, he's a bitter, burned-out case. He's forced to take an assignment with Einsatzgruppe Six, a unit rounding up Jewish citizens for transport to the continent. His German supervisor, Koehler, tells Rossett it requires only "putting them on trains...making sure things run smoothly, doing your job and following orders." Told Jewish detainees are to work as farm laborers, Rossett believes stories of mass executions are "bollocks....What would be the point of just killing them?" Then, encountering an old Jewish shopkeeper he knew as a child, he's given the opportunity to rescue a young boy named Jacob. Set in London's cold, damp, foggy streets, the tale is confined to Rossett's travails. The Nazi characters are one-note, but Schumacher explores morality's gray areas to watch people co-opted by circumstance—for example, Koehler's secretary, Kate, a double agent, and Chivers, a Communist Resistance agent turned by the Germans. Rossett, the strongest character, is the proverbial fractured, flawed protagonist, his growing love for Jacob adding nuance.