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The Black Orchestra (WW2 spy thriller) by [Toner, JJ]
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The Black Orchestra (WW2 spy thriller) Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 176 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


The Black Orchestra, by JJ Toner, is a mesmerizing spy thriller set in Nazi Germany during World War II.

Kurt Muller, an Abwehr signalman, shows up to work and finds that his coworker is dead at his radio receiver. The police barely investigate the death and quickly determine it was a suicide. Kurt doesn’t agree. He begins his own investigation, but not many want him to. Kurt’s inquiry leads him to a German resistance group. Kurt has to choose between his conscience and duty.

Historical fiction thrillers have a lot of moving parts that need to be grounded with historical facts in order to be believable. JJ Toner didn’t back down from the challenge. The Black Orchestra is a taut thriller that proves simple storytelling is effective storytelling. He relies on the setting and history to create an eerie atmosphere that puts the reader on edge right from the start. Just writing the word Gestapo will put fear into many hearts and it is easy for the reader to visualize what’s going on.

The tension builds slowly. At times it seems that the author has gotten off track, but then he surprises the reader with stringing everything back together. This change of pace can put off readers that prefer all action. But readers who enjoy the subtleties of intelligent thrillers will appreciate his efforts and will enjoy the exploration into the unknown.

The author has a firm grasp on German history. At times he mentions events that are integral to understanding the time period, such as Kristallnacht and The Night of the Long Knives. However, he assumes that the reader has done their research as well. The incidents may be familiar to some, but probably not all. Developing the back story, not just the historical turning points mentioned, but the characters’ pasts would have enhanced the suspense in the novel. Nazi Germany was a terrifying place. It was hard to know who to trust. The author uses this, but developing the back story more would have helped immensely. The author’s description of Berlin helps the city come alive. It plays a large role not only in the novel, but during the time period. The reader gets an inside look of what it was like for average citizens living in Berlin during World War II under Hitler’s thumb. These glimpses are truly terrifying and a wonderful addition to a story that is already brimming with suspense.

The one aspect that doesn’t seem to flow as well as the rest of the story is Kurt’s relationship with Gudrun and then his brief relationship with Liesel. Both of these women play a vital role in the end of the novel and some may wonder if the author figured out he needed more motivation for the main character in the final pages and padded the book with Gudrun and Liesel. Or were they added since it seems almost every spy novel needs a love interest? It’s a shame their characters weren’t developed more since they had so much potential. Luckily their roles don’t detract the reader too much from the central plot. This novel will appeal to readers who enjoy intelligent historical fiction thrillers.

-Self-Publishing Reviews

About the Author

JJ Toner writes short stories and novels. He lives in Ireland.

Product Details

  • File Size: 802 KB
  • Print Length: 325 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publication Date: December 15, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B1JE3B6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,744 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This starts with Kurt Müller, a Leutnant in the Abwehr noticing that Kleister, an Abwehr agent, dead at his desk due, seemingly, to a bullet in the back of the head. The KRIPO declare this a suicide, but Kurt does not see how anyone could kill himself that way so he begins to ask questions. After some time, he is taken by the Gestapo, beaten up, questioned, but let go. Apparently Kurt is a nephew of Reinhard Heydrich. I will not go any further because to do so would spoil the story, which is particularly plot-driven, except to note there is a group of people comprising "The Black Orchestra", and these have come to the attention of the Gestapo. The writing is taut, and while I do not really know, the descriptions of Germany in the first two years of WW II seem to be believable. There are prolonged action sequences that are well-written (with one reservation) that maintain good tension, while the characters of Kurt and his friends are well-drawn. With these considerations alone, this is clearly a five-star book.

However, the book is a historical novel, and historical details should be followed reasonably. You are at war, an agent is dead in the major intelligence-gathering organization, so who should show some interest? Don't you think "spy" or "enemy agent" might cross someone's mind? If so, the SD would become involved immediately. A Gestapo agent beats up a nephew of Heydrich regarding a matter the SD should be the investigating agent. Really? At that time, beat up a relation of Heydrich, and you had better have a good reason. Then, when Heydrich finds out what has happened, nothing happens? Really?
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Format: Kindle Edition
Berlin, 1940, and Kurt Muller finds the body of one of his co-workers, Kleister, slumped at his work station in the Communications Unit of the Abwehr. He supposedly committed suicide, but Muller is not convinced and the police (ORPO) do not seem interested in carrying out a thorough investigation. He takes it on himself to consult the head of his section about his concerns, but not only are his ideas dismissed, but also reported to Muller's uncle - Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the RSHA (Reich Security Headquarters, incorporating the ORPO, KRIPO, Gestapo, SD & SS). Muller's life is further complicated when he meets Gudrun von Sommerfeld, who seems to know quite a bit about him and makes a big impression on the young Berliner.

After having been arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo, and released thanks to his powerful uncle, Muller is then promoted to work with the Enigma and TypeX coding systems in the Translations Unit on his uncle's recommendation. He is not there long before he is given a further promotion to run Germany's agents in Ireland - his mother's home country. But Muller can't leave it alone. He becomes more and more convinced that Kleister was murdered - most likely by his old boss, Drobol, because of an uncoded signal that passed through his hands from Leipzig - where there has been another murder disguised as suicide.

Full of intrigue and conspiracy, 'The Black Orchestra' builds a sinister picture of life for the average Berliner in the 1940s, and shows an officious hierarchy that stretches into every walk of life. To survive, people need to keep their heads down, be very careful what they say and who they say it to, and do not do anything to be noticed.
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Kurt Müller, a Morse code signalman in the headquarters of the Abwehr (military intelligence) during World War Two, is an average sort of guy caught in very unordinary and dangerous situations.

Kurt is torn between his duty to fight for his country, and his conscience, which is calling on him to fight against what he sees happening around him. "The evil that was the Third Reich must fail, and I yearned to play my part in its downfall," he says.

This is not a war novel, nor is it a spy story. It is a story of a German officer serving an evil empire at a time when there are spies everywhere. Kurt comes across as a very believable character, as do the members of the wide supporting cast.

I enjoyed reading The Black Orchestra. The novel offers intimate and occasionally frightening insights into the lives of Germans coping with a very turbulent time in their history.
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The book begins in 1940 Berlin and the Gestapo are everywhere. Many ordinary citizens worry about someone watching every move they make. Is your spouse/lover, co-worker, best friend, superior at work, or neighbor reporting that you are not a supporter of the Third Reich? Is that man following you, or does he happen to take the same route to work as you?

"The Black Orchestra" is about a 20+ year old man, Kurt Muller, discovering love, the evils of the Third Reich, himself, and his capabilities. This is not a spy novel, although there are many spies lurking around; I put in the genre of coming of age and suspense.

Every hour I spent reading this book was enjoyable. I recommend this book if you like a tale of suspense set in a turbulent time in history.
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