SECOND OPINION: Hunting the Hangman by Howard Linskey

Review published on May 1, 2017.

You couldn’t make it up!

This is the kind of book that I would describe as ‘historical faction’. Although it fictionalises events to the extent of inventing dialogue, mood and emotion, the novel is clearly so firmly based on fact that it can serve as a reliable alternative to a non-fiction account. As someone who can find non-fiction a little dry or hard-going at times, this kind of novel represents the perfect way to access history and I never felt that Linskey was drifting too far from the actual events; in fact, in the foreword he states that, to the best of his knowledge, everything that happens in the book actually occurred.

The novel tells the story of Operation Anthropoid, which involved two Czechoslovakian soldiers being trained in Britain and sent back to their own country to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, one of the architects of the Holocaust. It takes the reader from the planning and strategising through to the actual execution of the plot and then beyond, as the events were the catalyst for one of the War’s greatest atrocities. The events may be familiar to some from the 2016 film ‘Anthropoid’, which I have yet to see but immediately added to my wishlist after reading this book.

Interestingly, Linskey’s foreword describes a previous attempt to have the book published that saw him encouraged to add new scenes to flesh out the story, but this is certainly a tale that needs no fleshing out. Truth can indeed be stranger, or at least more dramatic, than fiction and this book is a genuine page-turner.

While thrilling, the book is also incredibly chilling, particularly in some of the historical quotes that introduce each chapter. You may find yourself wondering how on earth someone could ever have thought, let alone said, what is written here. There is also real horror in the description of what came after Operation Anthropoid and the effect that decisions made in the relative safety of Britain had on the ordinary citizens of Czechoslovakia.

For me, this book is a resounding success. It tells an important story and gives you all the facts of what happened, while also delivering an emotional impact that a non-fiction book may not be able to. I was also impressed that, while Linskey certainly does not evoke any sympathy for the Nazi characters in the book, he still manages to depict them as human beings (albeit deplorable ones) rather than comic book monsters. This is ‘historical faction’ at its very best.

Cathy Boyle 5/5

Hunting the Hangman by Howard Linskey
No Exit Press 9781843449508 pbk May 2017

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