The Devil’s Breath by Tom Hogan – Book Review

The Devil’s Breath by Tom Hogan – Book Review

The Devils Breath by Tom Hogan

The Devil’s Breath

Author – Tom Hogan
Pages – 274
Released – 30th August 2021
ISBN-13 – 978-1736943618
Format – ebook, paperback
Rating – 4.5 Stars
I received a free copy of this book.
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Auschwitz prisoners Perla and Shimon Divko—she an investigative reporter, he a former lead detective in the Warsaw ghetto—are forced by Kommandant Rudolf Höss to solve the murder of his chief accountant and find millions in missing gold taken from the bodies of Jewish corpses.

With Reichsführer Himmler due for his annual audit, they have a week to solve the crime or watch hundreds of their peers executed as the penalty for their failure. Overseen by Nazi Lieutenant Helmut Graf, the three investigators dive deep inside Auschwitz—the Kanada harvesting operation, the killing process and the perils of daily life.

The investigation is plagued by multiple red herrings, the murder of prime suspects and witnesses, and the complicated relationship between Höss and his mistress, Gisela Brandt, an SS officer.

Review by Clive

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read this book. Our 21st century world seems so full of doom and gloom, did I really want to read a depressing story set in the Auschwitz camp which was the largest killing machine ever devised? Having finished The Devil’s Breath my answer is a resounding Yes!

Tom Hogan has been, among other things, an associate professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at UC Santa Cruz and he developed one of the first programmes for introducing the Holocaust into high school and university curricula. He should know as much as anyone who wasn’t actually there can know about what happened.

The Devil’s Breath is actually a very good murder mystery. The irony of investigating one murder in a camp where thousands of people are murdered every day is mentioned in the text. The difference from most detective stories is the setting and through his narration Hogan delves into the events of the time, describing them in detail. Although he clearly does not approve of the process, he gives the German reasoning and acknowledges their technical and administration skills.

Hogan has assembled an interesting group of characters from both sides and it is interesting that none of them have an easy life. The Jews that are used as workers are cold, hungry and desperate to survive even though they know that the programme is designed for them to only survive for a few months. The German officers were, in 1943, under tremendous pressure from above to perform. They are starting to doubt the outcome of the war and are making plans for their future. Corruption is rife.

The text is easy to read although I noted that Hogan uses a number of words and expressions that appear to be more 21st Century American than 1940’s German. He explains at the outset that he has kept the German military titles which I appreciated; we can all cope with learning a few new words from every book.

As the deadline for solving the crime approaches the story reaches an excellent climax with some exciting action and more than one unexpected outcome.

In summary The Devil’s Breath provides a detailed and, as far as it could be, a balanced education in the Holocaust combined with a lively and entertaining action thriller.

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Author Info

Tom Hogan The Devils Breath

From archaeological digs in Israel to life in both Protestant and Catholic seminaries to launching tech startups in Silicon Valley, Tom Hogan has led a fascinating life. And he brings that richness of experience to his writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

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