The Man in the Bunker by Rory Clements #BookReview #BlogTour

Germany, late summer 1945

The war is over but the country is in ruins. Millions of refugees and holocaust survivors strive to rebuild their lives in displaced persons camps. Millions of German soldiers and SS men are held captive in primitive conditions in open-air detention centres. Everywhere, civilians are desperate for food and shelter. No one admits to having voted Nazi, yet many are unrepentant. 

Adolf Hitler is said to have killed himself in his Berlin bunker. But no body was found - and many people believe he is alive. Newspapers are full of stories reporting sightings and theories. Even Stalin, whose own troops captured the bunker, has told President Truman he believes the former Führer is not dead. Day by day, American and British intelligence officers subject senior members of the Nazi regime to gruelling interrogation in their quest for their truth.

Enter Tom Wilde - the Cambridge professor and spy sent in to find out the truth...

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Man in the Bunker today. Many thanks to Rory Clements, Bonnier Zaffre and Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

The Man in the Bunker is the sixth book in Rory Clements' Tom Wilde series but the first I have read and although I would like to go back and read the previous novels now to understand more about the past between some of the characters featured here, there was nothing that prevented me from thoroughly enjoying and recommending it as a standalone thriller.
The storyline takes place shortly after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and so with the war finally over, Tom Wilde is keen to return to a normal life with his wife and young son. However, the stunning opening chapter has already revealed that there are still people in Germany prepared to go to any lengths to keep their secrets and Tom's plans to prepare for the Michaelmas Term at Cambridge are about to be interrupted. Senior MI6 member, Philip Eaton, a man he knows well, pays him a visit with Allen Dulles from the Office of Strategic Services and Colonel John Apache of the Counter Intelligence Corps in Garmisch to inform him that there are strong indications that Hitler's suicide in his bunker was faked and that he's still alive. They want Wilde to find out if the rumours are true and if so, to bring Hitler to justice. It's a fascinating premise for a thriller and though obviously fiction, I think most of us who grew up in the decades after the war will remember questioning whether there was any truth to the claims that the Nazi leader escaped to Buenos Aires – or as suggested here, perhaps he stayed closer to home and found a hiding place in the mountains of Bavaria...
Wilde is accompanied by Mozes Heck, a Dutch Jew who escaped to England and joined the British Army. Heck seethes with visceral hatred for the Nazis and holds ordinary Germans culpable for not doing anything to stop them and consequently proves to be a difficult partner for Wilde. However, his presence proves to be vital, particularly as The Man in the Bunker is so much more than an historical mystery. It's also a searing examination of the immediate aftermath of the war and how a country ravaged not just by bombs but by the fascist brutality that ripped a civilised country apart, can begin to adjust to life afterwards.
A number of Nazis, both prominent and otherwise have been captured and are being interrogated prior to trial. Some are keen to denounce Nazism and claim they knew nothing of the atrocities that were carried out as part of the Final Solution but Wilde doubts how truthful they are and Heck is a tinderbox just waiting to ignite. As they travel around Germany and into Austria, following the various leads they are given which may reveal what really happened to Hitler, the vivid descriptions of the country emphasise just how confused and arduous life was for this broken nation. The depiction of the black market economy trading in cigarettes and dollars contrasts with the suffering of many Germans, now susceptible to punishing retribution from their new occupiers, particularly the women who are raped and violated in a seemingly never-ending cycle of brutality. Meanwhile, some are still loyal to their Führer and though they may hide their allegiance, there are some sickening moments in the book which reveal just how precarious peace was and how the anger of those worst victimised by National Socialism was both understandable and often remarkably restrained.
Nevertheless, there is hope found here too and even though the graphic description of a displacement camp movingly evokes the severely challenging conditions for the millions of people left homeless and without their families, it also recognises that this was where people were able to look to the future and where life began again. 
For a historical thriller to really shine, it has to have an authentic sense of place – which The Man in the Bunker has in spades – and include a compelling mystery, and of course, the search for Hitler, and all the intrigue and danger that presents is exactly why this novel is so successful. Yes, it's fiction but the research necessary to write something so believable is obvious throughout; I loved the inclusion of a number of real-life figures and I'm grateful to Rory Clements for including a potted history of what happened to some of these people afterwards at the end of the book. 
By the end of The Man in the Bunker, it's become ominously clear that Russia is still the West's ally in name only and with the Cold War looming, it looks as if Tom Wilde's hopes for a return to normal life may yet be on hold and it's with a sense of delicious foreboding that I note he lives and works in Cambridge... 
Compulsive, exciting and convincing; The Man in the Bunker is a first-rate thriller and I highly recommend it.

The Man in the Bunker is published by Zaffre Books and can be purchased from, Hive, Waterstones and Amazon, or by ordering from your favourite independent bookshop.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Rory Clements is the bestselling author of the Tom Wilde series of mid-20th century historical spy thrillers and the John Shakespeare series set in Elizabethan England. He has won the Crime Writers' Association Historical Fiction Award twice - in 2010 for Revenger and in 2018 for Nucleus. He lives and works in an ancient farmhouse in quiet rural Norfolk, England.