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Monday 16 April 2018

‘Munich: The Man Who Said No!’ by David Laws

Published by Matador,
28 February 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-788037-88-4

This book takes a famous historical event - the Munich Conference of 1938 when Chamberlain made his deal with Hitler over Czechoslovakia - and imagines a US journalist trying to reveal important information, which affects their decisions, to the politicians.  This man, Bradley C. Wilkes, gate-crashes the conference and then disappears.  In 2015 his granddaughter (from an illegitimate branch of the powerful American family), Emma Drake, who is a history graduate at Cambridge, investigates what happened to him.  Not surprisingly she is emotionally involved in her quest.   Her assistant, Roper, has a shady past and a strange relationship with Emma’s mother.

Her investigation involves trying to talk to estranged relatives, pursuing a cache of relevant papers and leading a conference on the Munich Conference in Munich with historians of varying views from various countries.   The German authorities are not keen on raking up the unsavoury history of the Nazi regime and some of the delegates to Emma’s conference have very different agendas from hers.  

Emma is a focussed and ruthless operator facing a situation in which she is fighting for high stakes indeed.  She gradually pieces together her grandfather’s life story, finding that she has to accept some unpalatable truths about him.   She works hard to flush out her enemies in Munich as twist after twist develops in the battle for superiority.

This is a gripping thriller around a serious historical topic.  The historians give presentations that form a sort of punctuation to the actions of those who want to use the conference as cover for their own agendas.    The history is complex, so the conclusions suggested in this book are questionable.  This makes a particularly interesting survey!
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
There is a first chapter from a second book by David Laws at the end of Munich: The Man Who Said No! 

David Laws has been a national newspaper journalist for many years in London and Manchester. He previously worked as a reporter for local newspapers and as a writer and editor for magazines dealing with film, medicine, travel and finance. Now he’s writing novels about his favourite historical period - before, during and after the two world wars.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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