Mr B's review
From the author of ‘East West Street’ comes the story of the Senior Nazi Otto von Wächter as he attempts to escape trial after WWII, via the infamous Ratline. Sands lays bare the day-to-day life of Wächter in an intimate and complex portrait of a man.
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER FROM THE WINNER OF THE BAILIE GIFFORD PRIZE
‘Hypnotic, shocking and unputdownable’ JOHN LE CARRE
‘Remarkable’ THE SUNDAY TIMES
‘Breathtaking, gripping, shattering’ ELIF SHAFAK
‘A taut and finely crafted factual thriller’ OBSERVER
‘A triumph of research and brilliant storytelling’ ANTONY BEEVOR
‘Extraordinary’ EVENING STANDARD
In this riveting real-life thriller, Philippe Sands offers a unique account of the daily life of senior Nazi SS Brigadefuhrer Otto Freiherr von Wachter and his wife, Charlotte. Drawing on a remarkable archive of family letters and diaries, he unveils a fascinating insight into life before and during the war, as a fugitive on the run in the Alps and then in Rome, and into the Cold War. Eventually the door is unlocked to a mystery that haunts Wachter’s youngest son, who continues to believe his father was a good man – what happened to Otto Wachter while he was preparing to travel to Argentina on the ‘ratline’, assisted by a Vatican bishop, and what was the explanation for his sudden and unexpected death?
A gripping adventure, an astounding journey of discovery and a terrifying and timely portrait of evil in all its complexity, banality, self-justification and madness. A stunning achievement — STEPHEN FRY Hypnotic, shocking and unputdownable — JOHN LE CARRE Breathtaking, gripping, and ultimately, shattering. Philippe Sands has done the unimaginable: look a butcher in the eye and tell his story without flinching — ELIF SHAFAK A triumph of research and brilliant storytelling — ANTONY BEEVOR Remarkable . . . Sands’s untangling of the mysteries surrounding Otto von Wachter is masterfully done * THE SUNDAY TIMES * This is a burningly necessary book. Sands makes a gently unsparing dissection of deception, love, delusion and ineradicable evil. Elegant, painstaking, passionate and quietly enraging — A L KENNEDY This is a taut and finely crafted factual thriller, reminiscent in density and pace of John le Carre . . . a feat of exhilarating storytelling – gripping, gratifying and morally robust * OBSERVER * The forensic stamina and precision that garnered such praise for Sands’ 2016 work EAST WEST STREET are equally in evidence here. THE RATLINE is not only about events in the past, but their dangerous legacy in the world today. A formidable piece of historical sleuthing written with all the pace and suspense of a thriller, it is a timely reminder that crimes against humanity don’t occur only at the level of states and governments. They take place also in the more secret and less fathomable depths of people’s hearts and minds — Rebecca Abrams * FINANCIAL TIMES * Extraordinary. In fast-paced, John le Carre-like pages (spies, Nazi-hunters, dark Vatican forces) . . . THE RATLINE is an electrifying true crime for the contagion lockdown * EVENING STANDARD * Sands is a terrier at research . . . The seething world of post-war Rome, with its senior fascists reprieved and returning to prominence, its war criminals lurking in hiding, its spies and secret services brokering deals and its adventurers and profiteers making fortunes, has seldom been more vividly described — Caroline Moorehead * SPECTATOR * A book of twists and intrigues as complex as any le Carre thriller . . . like its predecessor, [it] is replete with vivid descriptions and Sands brings to it the same relentless narrative momentum * LITERARY REVIEW * Fascinating . . . Switching between the distant and very recent past, the book is episodic in nature, but this only makes it more compelling. It combines a mystery with a straight retelling of history – shining a light into one of the less investigated corners of the Nazi era and its aftermath – and a thoughtful inquiry into how we reckon with it — David Bennum * MAIL ON SUNDAY * THE RATLINE is a compelling piece of forensic historical research – one that is every bit as good as EAST WEST STREET * THE TELEGRAPH * A truly extraordinary book – a forensic yet deeply humane and measured exploration of the human capacity for self-deception and cruelty — HENRY MARSH Has the illuminating brilliance of a magnesium flame and a pace worthy of John le Carre . . . THE RATLINE is a cunningly constructed courtroom drama in book form . . . It is detailed, it is damning – all the more so because of the author’s dispassionate decency * SUNDAY EXPRESS, S MAGAZINE * Fascinating . . . superbly researched and brilliantly told. East West Street was one of the outstanding books of the past decade . . . The Ratline – part history, part thriller – is a superb companion piece, shedding light on the astonishing cynicism of the early years of the Cold War, when Nazis, Americans and Catholic clergy made strange bedfellows. Both should be read together. They are a fascinating account of the war between law and barbarism * NEW STATESMAN * Vivid and complex . . . Sands has skilfully avoided the catalogue of inhumanity often detailed in books about the Nazis, preferring a low-key, gently poignant approach that makes the occasional intrusion of moments of horror all the more shocking * DAILY EXPRESS * Brilliant . . . extraordinarily moving * DAILY MIRROR * A gripping tale, crammed with twists and turns . . . enthralling * HISTORY TODAY * THE RATLINE is tragic and unforgettable . . . Sands has the artfulness of a born storyteller, as well as deadly forensic skills and formidable patience at reaching his ends. He unwraps his evidence in spare, clear, convincing prose with a taut control that keeps one on tenterhooks . . . Sands’s intellectual passion, his crusading zeal and his compassion for the dead and wounded make this a great book * THE OLDIE * It is this present-day drama, rather than the historical story, that makes this book so extraordinary. Readers will, much like the author, find themselves longing for Horst to open his eyes. That he finds this so difficult to do is simultaneously poignant and grotesque * BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE * Diaries, encrypted letters and secret documents are dissected by a mastermind . . . a great achievement — CEES NOOTEBOOM In a story that is as gripping as any thriller, Philippe Sands uncovers new evidence about exactly what happened to von Wachter leading up to his unexpected death in 1949 * JEWISH RENAISSANCE * A riveting expose . . . a gripping blend of historical scholarship and clever detective work * STRONG WORDS * Engrossing . . . Part history, part memoir and part detective story, it’s a thought-provoking read * CHOICE MAGAZINE, Book of the Month * An astonishing amount of research and expertise has gone into the making of this book . . . a compelling historical and human drama * THE TABLET * Gripping . . . fascinating and important. It’s a testament to Sands – his fiercely inquiring mind, his excellent researchers, the wealth of documents and his ability to make them come to life – that the book is so suspenseful. This important book makes clear that the more difficult work of history may not be in tracking down the ones who tried to escape, but in confronting the ones who didn’t * The New York Times *
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