Deighton, Len. SS-GB.

NY: Knopf, 1979.

What if Hitler had second thoughts about his planned attack on the Soviet Union in 1940 and decided to go back to concentrating on the defeat of Great Britain instead? What if the Wehrmacht invaded southern England, took London, destroyed Buckingham Palace, and put the king in the Tower? That’s the set-up, what alternate history fans call the “Point of Departure.”

And it could all so easily have happened that way, too, if Hitler had listened to the advice of his generals and had left Russia the hell alone.

So it’s November 1941 and Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer, known to the popular press as “Archer of the Yard,” is trying hard to remain just a copper and not get caught up in the political struggle between the German army on the one hand and his new SS superiors on the other. He hopes people won’t interpret his continuing to fight “regular” crime as collaboration. A murder is a murder, right? Only the shooting of an unknown man in a back-street antique shop takes Archer into the convoluted byways of the Resistance, the leaders of which are willing to play off one faction of Germans against another to their own ends. And they can be pretty bloody-minded about it, too. Not only Archer but his right hand, Sgt. Harry Woods, and his boss, the genial and completely untrustworthy Gen. Kellerman, and the ruthless Standartenfuhrer Huth from Himmler’s own staff in Berlin, and the impenetrable Col. Mayhew, are all painted in vivid colors and in multiple dimensions. The plot itself is complex but it fits the time and the players. and the last several chapters, about the Royal Escape, are hypnotically bizarre. Even after thirty years, this is still one of the very best alternate history novels I’ve ever read.

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Published in: on 28 October 2013 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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