Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen
|Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Fabulous WWII thriller in which a young Jewish girl infiltrates a girl's school filled with daughters of the Reich. Unforgettable central character and packed with historical detail.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: March 2018|
|External links: Author's website|
Sarah, a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany as WWII is about to break out, finds herself alone after her mother is shot as they try to escape the country. She meets a mysterious man and, in a fit of dangerous altruism, saves him from arrest by the soldiers. This reckless act changes everything for Sarah, who is recruited as a spy by this man - the Captain, posing as a German businessman - and sent to infiltrate a girl's school full of the daughters of the great and good of the Reich. Her mission? To befriend the daughter of a nuclear scientist and get access to his research. Sarah might be Jewish but she is also blonde-haired and blue-eyed. But will this be enough to maintain her cover? The tiniest slip could be fatal...
Ooh, ooh, ooh! My goodness but Orphan Monster Spy is a gripping book. I read all four hundred pages on a Sunday afternoon in one sitting and looked up to discover it was dark outside and perilously close to bed time! Killeen plunges us into the narrative by way of in media res - right in the middle of a scene in which central character Sarah is witness to her mother's murder at the hands of the Nazis. It's gruesome. And I should say here, if gruesome isn't your thing, this book won't be either because it doesn't pull any punches. So, Sarah's mother gets her head shot off right in front of her and the first chapter is a terrifying night-time chase, during the course of which Sarah meets a man who will change the trajectory of her life completely. You can see why I had to keep reading, can't you?
The whole book is gripping in this way. It's tense throughout as the reader sees through Sarah's eyes and joins her in constant evaluations of what's going on - where's the escape route? Why is this person asking this question? Do they suspect? What's my correct response? Is there a detail I'm missing? And Sarah is just fantastic. She does all this as though it is second nature - and by this time, it is. Sarah has had several years of negotiating an increasingly hostile German society as a Jewish girl. And of coping with unstable and unpredictable adults as the daughter of an alcoholic. What's wonderful about Sarah is the acerbic wit she has maintained through all of this strife. She has a wonderful relationship with the Captain in which she gives as good as she takes.
But this story isn't all about Sarah, fantastic as Sarah is. The historical detail is superb and woven deeply into the narrative. The supporting cast comes to you fully-fleshed and interesting - from the conflicted Captain, through the snarky Polish nurse who comes up trumps, to the pliant but resilient Mouse, trying to find her own way through an uncompromising Reich. Real life nuclear physicist Lise Meitner also gets a cameo role and I hope readers make the effort to look her up after reading - an element is named after her as a kind of consolation prize for having been overlooked for the Nobel prize in favour of her collaborator Otto Hahn - a man. And this brings me to the underlying feminist message in Orphan Monster Spy. Yes, Sarah is a kick ass heroine but this book isn't superficial about it. Sarah is more than just a good action scene. She is funny and clever and resourceful and she gets the better of all the men she meets - even the Captain, who is on her side. And, in their own ways, so do other female characters in this story - Elsa, the girl Sarah has been sent to befriend; the nurse; Mouse; even Sarah's own mother in the end.
In case you hadn't guessed, I loved Orphan Monster Spy and I think you should read it. I hope there is another book planned about Sarah and the Captain, because I'd be first in line for a copy.
If Orphan Monster Spy appeals, you shouldn't miss the wonderful Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein also about female spies during WWII. Like Sarah, Auslander's Paul is not Aryan but looks Aryan. He gets adopted by a family of the Reich. Ryan Graudin's Wolf by Wolf is an alternate history thriller set in a world in which Germany won WWII and also features a Jewish girl as a fabulous central character.
You can read more book reviews or buy Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen at Amazon.com.
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