The Turn of the Tide by Alan Jones #BookReview


Turn of the Tide is the third book in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy: a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

As Hitler's greed turns eastwards to the fertile and oil rich Soviet heartlands, life for the Kästner and the Nussbaum families disintegrates and fragments as the Nazis tighten the noose on German and Polish Jews. Implementing Endlösung der Judenfrage, the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’, Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann plan to have Germany, and Europe, Judenrein, ‘cleansed of Jews’.

General Erich Kästner, increasingly alone, fights a losing battle to protect his friends, and their fellow Jews, putting himself and his family in jeopardy.

As the tide of war turns, he looks anxiously to the Soviets in the east, and to the Western Allies, desperately hoping, despite his patriotism, that Germany is defeated before there are no Jews left in the countries occupied by the Third Reich.

When an assassination attempt on Hitler and his henchmen fails, Erich Kästner himself comes under the scrutiny of the Gestapo, and his own survival, and that of his family, becomes uncertain.

As the war draws to an end, with Germany in ruins, time is running out for the Kästners and the Nussbaums…

It's fitting that the last book I read in 2021 and the first book I review in 2022 should be The Turn of the Tide. I cannot thank Alan Jones enough for asking me if I'd be interested in reading this wonderful book and for sending me a digital copy of the novel.

The Turn of the Tide picks up where Flight of the Shearwater left off and is set between November 1941 and August 1945. However, the novel actually opens in 2001 as a character remembers what happened sixty years ago. The final sentence of this prologue is ominously intriguing and sets the scene for a major strand of the plot which featured heavily in Flight of the Shearwater and is continued here in a way I hadn't expected but which like everything else in this exceptional series, is a moving and compelling story of people torn apart by war and by extreme fanaticism.
The Sturmtaucher Trilogy needs to be read in order and so I am mindful not to give anything away about what happens in The Gathering Storm or Flight of the Shearwater but given that this is historical fiction, it's not a spoiler to say that life becomes even more precarious for the Kästner and Nussbaum families as the Nazis step up their Final Solution to rid Europe of its Jewish population. There is a risk when writing about the Holocaust that the depiction of some of the atrocities carried out results in a novel feeling like torture porn but that never becomes the case here. Alan Jones doesn't ignore the depravity and brutality that occurred during those terrible years but he doesn't dwell on the violence either and so despite being a difficult read at times, The Turn of the Tide is not gratuitous.
However, neither is it sanitised and although some of the characters display extraordinary courage, it's made clear that their interventions ultimately helped very few and that those who opposed the Nazis were vastly outnumbered by the Germans who either supported or chose to ignore what was happening. There's also a growing sense of frustration about the failure of the Allies to do more; whether due to military strategy or a reluctance to believe what they were being told, Erich Kästner finds himself increasingly alone and vulnerable to the circling Gestapo agents who sense that they may finally have the upper hand. The melancholy tension as Erich takes steps to protect his family becomes almost unbearable but these characters had become more than words on the page and though I read on with a terrible sense of dread, I needed to know what would happen to them. 
Although the trilogy is mostly centred on the members of the Kästner and Nussbaum families, the fate of the friends and enemies we have also followed throughout is recounted here too. It goes without saying that loss features heavily but there is also hope and eventually some deeply touching reunions which moved me to tears. The storyline continues after the end of the war as people begin to return to the place they once called home and attempt to discover what happened to their loved ones. The desperate chaos of a nation bombed into submission and now split between America and Britain in the West and the Russians in the East is of course, a reminder that the Second World War was also the start of a different sort of war. However, this isn't really a novel about the complexities of global politics, it's about the people affected by them and the sheer number of displaced persons and family members desperate for any news is heartbreaking, particularly with the knowledge that millions of people were killed and that their stories will never be truly known. Meanwhile, opinions are split between those who were persecuted for years; some understandably want vengeance, others counsel against sinking to that level but all want justice and in the thoughtful, empathic closing chapters, it's sobering to comprehend just how many of the perpetrators escaped capture while those who enabled them were too numerous to convict. 
Some families were reunited against the odds however, and in this final book of what has been a remarkable trilogy, Alan Jones acknowledges that the end of the war and with it the destruction of National Socialism finally allowed people to look towards the future with optimism. The sensitive writing and extraordinary attention to detail throughout the Sturmtaucher Trilogy has ensured that these utterly consuming books will remain with me for the longest time. The Turn of the Tide is a fitting, moving conclusion to a majestic series which I can say without any hesitation is one of the best I have ever read. Please read it.

The Turn of the Tide can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About the Author
Alan Jones is a Scottish author with three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. He has now switched genres, and his WW2 trilogy will be published from August to December 2021. It is a Holocaust story set in Northern Germany.

He is married with four grown up children and four wonderful grandchildren.

He has recently retired as a mixed-practice vet in a small Scottish coastal town in Ayrshire and is one of the coxswains on the local RNLI lifeboat. He makes furniture in his spare time, and maintains and sails a 45-year-old yacht, cruising in the Irish Sea and on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. He still plays football despite being just the wrong side of sixty.

His crime novels are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence, and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.

He is one of the few self-published authors to be given a panel at the Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival in Stirling and has done two pop-up book launches at previous festivals.

He has spent the last five years researching and writing the Sturmtaucher Trilogy.