Abandoned and Alone, a Young Boy Must Survive Andrew Taylor’s ‘The Second Midnight’ [REVIEW]

Prague

A father leaves his boy behind in Nazi-infested Prague in Andrew Taylor’s The Second Midnight. (Photo by Roman Boed, Flickr)

A world on the brink of war. A father with a secret mission. A son who becomes a pawn. Set against Nazi-invaded Czechoslovakia, a game of political espionage becomes a child’s fight for survival in Andrew Taylor’s classic, The Second Midnight.

Andrew Taylor's THE SECOND MIDNIGHT

HarperCollins

In 1939 Europe, it is every man for himself as Hitler rises to power and sets everyone’s nerves on edge. One man, Captain Alfred Kendall, has been commissioned by the British Intelligence to travel to Prague with his troubled young son, Hugh, as cover.

But once on Czech soil, Alfred is faced with a terrible choice. Now that the Third Reich has moved in, the Czech Resistance will help Alfred return to England on one condition: he must leave behind his son as collateral.

On his own in Czechoslovakia, Hugh learns to fend for himself and even picks up two new languages, Czech and German. When he saves the life of Nazi Colonel Helmuth Scholl, the man takes him under wing and installs him as the gardener’s assistant at the family home. Despite this fact, however, Scholl’s own son, Heinz, grows suspicious of Hugh even as a secret romance blossoms between him and Scholl’s daughter, Magda.

As the war across Europe intensifies, will the young couple salvage their love, or will the dreams they’ve built come crashing down around them?

Originally published in 1987, The Second Midnight has just been reissued by HarperCollins and is the first volume of a trilogy by international bestselling author Andrew Taylor. That being said, this is the kind of story that stands on its own merit, but keeps the door open to future chapters if we desire to continue the tale.

Loving a good World War II-era epic, I found myself lured into this tale that marries family drama with espionage thriller and comes complete with loads of political and historical research. The characters are deliciously drawn, and we become easily captivated by Hugh, who is a bright boy who has a complicated relationship with his father. It is no wonder though, the boy is misunderstood, has gotten in trouble in school, and to top it off his father isn’t the easiest person on the planet to get along with.

As I recently did with Mario Escobar’s novel, Children of the Stars, I liked that we got to experience wartime Europe through Hugh’s perspective. And like with the plots of most of these World War II tales, the world at the time doesn’t make sense. Tough decisions frequently have to be made, such as a man’s choice to leave his child behind to fend for himself.

This is where the plot gets a tad sticky for me, however. Hugh doesn’t appear to have the worldly experience needed to survive the war at his young age, and yet he does prevail in large part because of his convenient knack for languages and his determination to endure. This doesn’t make for a bad novel, I just wasn’t quite able to suspend all disbelief here.

I do, however, enjoy the relationships Hugh forges in his own father’s absence. I like the interplay between Hugh and Colonel Scholl, his forbidden romance with Magda, and even Heinz’s lurking suspicions. It makes for good character development, and propels the story forward enough that it made me want to find out more.

Although this story doesn’t pack Jason Bourne-level suspense, it does have its titillating moments and delivers a fascinating chapter out of history and the World War II era. And for those who, like me, were not familiar with Taylor’s work previously, this novel serves as a fine introduction to his writing and will likely have many readers coming back for more.

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Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor
(Photo by Caroline Silverwood Taylor)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Taylor is the author of a number of crime novels, including the ground-breaking Roth Trilogy, which was adapted into the acclaimed TV drama Fallen Angel, and the historical crime novels The Ashes of London, The Silent Boy, The Scent of Death and The American Boy, a No.1 Sunday Times bestseller and a 2005 Richard & Judy Book Club Choice.

He has won many awards, including the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger, an Edgar Scroll from the Mystery Writers of America, the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award (the only author to win it three times) and the CWA’s prestigious Diamond Dagger, awarded for sustained excellence in crime writing. He also writes for the Spectator and The Times.

He lives with his wife Caroline in the Forest of Dean.

To find out more about Andrew, visit his home on the Web at Andrew-Taylor.co.uk, and follow him on Twitter.

THE SECOND MIDNIGHT
By Andrew Taylor
400 pp. HarperCollins. $16.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase The Second Midnight at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, HarperCollins, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

The Second Midnight is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to Abandoned and Alone, a Young Boy Must Survive Andrew Taylor’s ‘The Second Midnight’ [REVIEW]

  1. trish says:

    I think I’d be fascinated by the espionage part of this book.

    Thank you for being on this tour!

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