Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke

Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)  2015


The setting is the late 1930s in Europe. As we see Gretchen in her comfortable London home, there is no clue that this young woman was a favorite of Hitler when she was a child or that, although she is not Jewish, her boyfriend Daniel is. He is also in London having escaped from Germany because he openly opposed Hitler as a newspaper columnist.

Things are stable for the young couple until Daniel hears from his family in Germany that his young cousin has been beaten and taken into custody by the SS. Additionally, and even more shocking, Daniel has been accused of murdering a young woman in Berlin and is wanted for the crime. Daniel does not hesitate to return to Germany to help his cousin and clear his name. The young man feels that in the process, he can also expose Hitler as a sponsor of the National Socialists who are murderous thugs and undermine his grab for power. Although Gretchen realizes her return could mean her own death, she unhesitatingly follows Daniel.

This is the backdrop for the ensuing plot in which the young couple exhort all their personal and emotional resources to achieve their goals. By the time they arrive in Germany, Daniel's cousin is dead. Realizing he can no longer help his cousin, he moves forward to exonerate his name. Brushes with death, capture by both a group of organized crime and the SS, torture and multiple escapes comprise much of the book. The plot is almost unbelievable but is validated by the author in an Author's Note. It is a book of fiction but there are many things that are based on fact. The book gives a clear description of what was happening to innocent people pursued and killed by Hitler's regime before the world recognized the full implications of his power. Recommended for ages 14 through adult.

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