This is a very different war story. Six German teenagers in 1939 have been friends forever. But they must choose sides as their nation goes to war. The story is about the splitting of the friendships, not only by the war but by loves lost.

The book actually opens in 1998 when Robert Lubisch begins a search to discover what secret might lay behind the photo of a young woman. His father died, leaving behind the photo and two strange documents from the war that could not belong to his father.

As his search stirs up secrets long hidden, we, the readers, are privy to the lives of the six young ones in 1939 and after.

This is the first book by Borrmann to be translated into English. She has been successful in Germany. This translation is well done.

I like this story mainly because it is not formulaic. Predicting the conclusion will be difficult because Borrmann takes us through several plot twists before reaching the revel. And yes, it is a murder mystery.

Mike Lawrence

Istanbul Passage

This was one of my penny books. If you buy from Amazon, you may know that they let book distributors list their options to buy listed books, in competition with Amazon. Many are used books listed as low as a penny, the only catch being that they charge shipping, usually $3.99, but I still call them penny books.

I was drawn in by the first line of the back cover: Istanbul survived the Second World War as a magnet for refugees and spies. I am not disappointed. The story follows Leon Bauer as he smuggles a man into the city, only to end up shooting his boss. Bauer is an American civilian working under the table for Tommy at the American Consulate, mostly, in 1945, helping bring Jews in so they could transit on to Palestine.

But the story is not as simple as that. Kanon explores a wide range of emotions as he has Bauer try to uncover the reason why his friend Tommy turned against him and why someone else at the consulate is later murdered. Even as Bauer dances a quick two-step with the consulate staff, he has to protect himself from the Russians, the Turkish police, and the Turkish secret police, all while visiting his wife in a hospital. She is his one true love, but she has checked out, as in reality. She responds to no one, least of all Bauer.

Did I mention plot twists? Several.

This is a five-star if you like historical, mystery, thrillers.

Mike Lawrence