The Passenger, by F. R. Tallis (2016)

The PassengerHow can anyone resist the idea of a haunted German submarine plying the waters of the Atlantic in the winter of 1941/1942? Sigfried Lorenz is the conflicted and flawed commander of U-330, a Nazi vessel battling the British during World War II. Lorenz is fighting a war he doesn’t believe in, longs for the arms of his Parisian lover, and cares deeply about the morale and safety of his crew. When a triple-encoded message orders U-330 to pick up two prisoners from a vessel off the coast of Iceland, the crew responds with speed, curious about the prisoners’ importance. One is a British submarine commander; the other is a Norwegian scholar, an expert in the Norse runes that fascinate Himmler and other Nazi leaders. Once they are aboard, Lorenz offers Sutherland a cordial glass of rum, inviting friendly conversation: “Have you had a good war? I am close to fifty thousand tons,” Lorenz informs his counterpart, referring to the carrying capacity of the ships he has sunk (p. 19). It’s a boastful statement that masks Lorenz’ struggle with his role in the death of sailors little different from himself and his men. Soon after this exchange, the two prisoners are dead following an unexpected struggle with their captors, and Lorenz has to radio his superiors the disappointing news. Burial at sea, he’s ordered, and complies. As the u-boat continues its deadly stalk of Allied ships, mishaps begin to plague the submarine – torpedoes don’t fire, the periscope jams, a mysterious fire breaks out. Is it simply a streak of bad luck? Or something more sinister? Tallis has done significant research for this novel, basing it on the real-life case of a haunted German submarine. He drew on both fact and fiction to develop an authentic voice for Lorenz, his crew, and the description of life aboard a wartime submarine fighting cold, dampness and mould as much as the enemy. Tallis delivers a fast-paced ghost story, raising questions about the supernatural forces that threaten Lorenz and his crew as they relentlessly pursue their targets following the coordinates sent by headquarters, at the same time trying to avoid becoming targets themselves. Tallis achieves a delicate balance between psychological horror and wartime action, culminating in a satisfying conclusion that delivers chills right to the end.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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