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July 23, 2022

Katastrophe by Graham Hurley ~ a Review

by Donna Huber



I'm always on the lookout for WWII stories that tell a different piece of history. Graham Hurley's new novel Katastrophe promised that with detailing the final days of the war with Germany. It also more heavily featured the Russians that other WWII novels I've read.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel Katastrophe by Graham Hurley
July 2022; Head of Zeus; 9781838938390
ebook, print (400 pages); historical fiction

When I started reading this book, I didn't realize it was part of a series. The Goodreads listing is a little confusing because it indicates the series is Spoils of War yet there are no other books in the series. With a closer look at a few of Hurley's other books, I noticed that the characters in Katastrophe were also in books from the Wars Within. And the final piece of the puzzle was solved when I checked Amazon and saw that the books from the Wars Within series are now in the Spoils of War series. According to the publisher, though, these books can be read in any order. There are hints in Katastrophe that is part of a series, but at the same time it felt very much like a stand-alone book and the references to past events were just there to give the characters a backstory.

This is the first book I've read by Graham Hurley so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I was drawn to this book because it dealt with the final days of the European War in a way that I haven't read before. In other books I've read we see the liberation of concentration camps, the final push of the Resistance, or the roads filled with refugees fleeing the advancing Red Army.

Katastrophe opens with a German propagandist in a Russian prison camp. Werner Nehmann, a Georgian joournalist who worked for Goebbels, was captured in Stalindgard two years prior. Through sheer will, he has survived the grueling years of near starvation, freezing temperatures, and bone-breaking hard labor. His release comes when NKVD takes him from the gold mines because Stalin, a fellow Georgian, wants to meet him. Of course, Stalin doesn't just want to meet him. He has a task for the man you had had the ear of Goebbels.

So from the start, I knew this story would be different just because Russia was prominently included. The following chapters confirmed the differences when we are introduced to MI-5 employees Tam Moncrieff and Urusal Barton. 

Katastrophe in many ways focuses on the political maneuvers and behind-the-scene deals that brokered peace in the final days of the Third Reich. We don't get the nitty-gritty details of negotiations, but more a sense of how the allies were trying to get the upper hand to make sure they got their fair share of the spoils of war.

This book is long, and for me, it was a very slow read. I thought at first that the feeling that this was the end was just because it was the end of the war, but now knowing it is part of a series, I think it might be the wrapping up of a series feeling. I didn't connect with any of the characters but again that might be because I was getting the end of their story - the tidying up of loose threads so to speak without the history of the fabric they came from.

Katastrophe has a number of glowing reviews on Goodreads and I suspect many come from followers of the series. For me, this was just a so-so book. While characters were in danger at time, I didn't feel any urgency or tension. While I was reading the book, I felt like Moncrieff when he was sitting outside under the kitchen window talking to the turtle. And the ending wasn't satisfying to me. My initial reaction was, "What! That's it?" Again, though I think if you have been reading this series you may find the ending more poignant.

I don't know for sure that this is the last book in the series as it could very well be a jumping-off point for the start of the Cold War. That too could explain the way this book ended - where we have an ending but it still feels unfinished.

Buy Katastrophe at Amazon


Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.



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