Since the late 1940s, the phrase “only following orders” has had ominous connotations. And it seemed like Tony Schumacher took this phrase as his inspiration for The Darkest Hour. John Rossett has been following orders for a long time. Then, one day, he snaps and goes rogue. The Darkest Hour is set in just 48, action-packed hours in which Rossett tries to save the life of a Jewish boy in an alternate Britain that was occupied by Germany sometime after the Dunkirk evacuation.
John Rossett was a policeman in London before the war, so it only made sense that he returned to policing after he was released from a prisoner of war camp. He had a fearsome reputation as a soldier. For his actions in France, he was awarded the Victoria Cross and nicknamed the “British Lion.” So it’s strange that Rossett offers no objections when the SS requisition him and set him to work rounding up London’s Jews for transport to Europe. For most of the book, Rossett is shockingly naive about their fate. He believes the news of the concentration camps is just government-in-exile propaganda. His refusal to fight back against the Germans and acquiescence to their orders is, frankly, appalling. I had to push myself to keep reading.
Shortly after the book begins and Rossett has just sent a building full of Jews back to Europe, he discovers young Jacob hiding in a chimney. Rossett finds his lack of conscience shaken and, hours after sending the boy’s grandfather to his death, he breaks into the SS prison/police station in order to rescue him. The pair spend the rest of the book running from the Germans, the Resistance, and the Communists. Rossett becomes a super-powered avenging angel. I lost count of the number of people Rossett killed or threatened to kill. It’s unbelievable what the former war hero gets up to.
I have to sum this book up by saying it’s a thriller dressed up as an alternate history. The premise—if you can stand its repellent implications—is interesting. The action scenes are terrific. But I read most of it with my eyebrows raised in disbelief—and not the kind you want when reading a work of fiction.
I received a free copy of this ebook from Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 23 September 2014.