Review published on April 1, 2017.
We may feel we know all there is to know about the WWII Nazi atrocities. Many incidents and places are familiar to us. But the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich and its impact on Prague in Czechoslovakia is one event I was not aware of.
Hitler referred to Heydrich as the ‘Blond Beast’ and Heydrich fancied himself as his heir apparent. His skull-sculptured features in photographs underline his personality, as Heydrich cared little for life if it stood in the way of his success.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the plot, set up in England by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and exiled Czech Leader Eduard Benes ,which chose two Czech soldiers – Josef Gabchik and Jan Kubis – to parachute back into their homeland and kill this most prominent Nazi leader. Heydrich, although a seemingly cultured family man, was ambitious and trusted hardly anyone. He now controlled the city of Prague and was formulating the Holocaust plans. The lives of many were in his hands.
Linskey has obviously thoroughly researched this book – after all, he states it was 17 years in the making! Sometimes it is also good to be able to put faces to the people of whom we read and a cursory search of the internet can assist with fleshing out the main protagonists of this highly readable piece of 20th century history. Obviously, the dialogue is fictional, but much flows convincingly well for the various characters and their lives. The portrait of Prague, now it seems a city of stag weekends, reminds us of its glorious architecture and culture.
Gabcik and Kubis knew the danger of their plan. Their time in Prague was short and also seemed to allow for love interests (which it also seems will feature in a forthcoming movie about this assassination starring Cillian Hands).
I would not normally read more about WWII, but this is still one of those episodes that can simultaneously enlighten and destroy your belief in humanity.
An excellent personal read, it might be worth book clubs using the book alongside the forthcoming film for comparison.
Well done to the author for finally finishing his task!
Philipa Coughlan 4/4
Hunting the Hangman by Howard Linskey
No Exit Press 9781843449508 pbk May 2017
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