The Alphabet House

Jussi Adler-Olsen, trans. from the Danish by Steve Schein. Dutton, $27.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-525-95489-7
First published in Denmark in 1997, Adler-Olsen’s debut is a very different sort of thriller from his Department Q series (The Marco Effect, etc.): it recounts the harrowing odyssey of two British airmen shot down behind enemy lines during WWII and subsequently held captive, under assumed German identities, in a hellish mental hospital for SS officers. Only one of the two can actually speak German, and their struggle to survive electroshock therapy, experimental drugs, and brutal treatment from staff and fellow inmates makes the first half of the book punishing reading. A long-deferred day of reckoning arrives for several characters some 30 years later during the ill-fated 1972 Munich Olympics. Although the daring (if far-fetched) plot, sustained suspense, and caustic view of society all hint at the author’s later work, this meticulously researched historical journey won’t be to every taste. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014
Release date: 02/24/2015
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 789 pages - 978-1-4104-7862-7
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-1-101-98397-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-61176-364-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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