Christoph Ernst knew his future wasn’t exactly bright- he was the son of German immigrants to the U.S., graduating college at the start of World War II. But he certainly didn’t expect it to land him on the wrong side of a war zone. As a newly-recruited American spy for the Lost Boys program, Christoph’s job is to infiltrate the German army and provide intelligence to the Allies. The hardest part of his assignment will be to learn to balance his duty as an American with his loyalty to his fellow soldiers- before either side decides to execute him as a traitor.
Being a WWII buff myself, I was particularly keen to read this book. It was interesting to see significant events from a side that’s not usually portrayed. The book opens with a battle, which could have been a stumbling block. However, all the action scenes throughout the book were engaging, dynamic, and easy to visualize- crucial qualities for a war story.
Slater also does well with his characters, for the most part. I cared about them enough for them to make a significant emotional impact on me. The relationship between Ernst and Lt. Kost was particularly moving, and Dornoff turned out to be a much more intriguing character than I at first gave him credit for.
My main criticism of the novel is that, despite the title, the “villains” and “heroes” were actually pretty clear-cut, although they are evenly distributed on both sides of the battle. I would also have liked more cultural depth to the Germans; apart from a few encounters with the S.S., I felt that Ernst’s unit could have been any soldiers in any war. There’s something to be said for that, but given the deep-seated cultural and societal influences that helped give birth to the Third Reich, I couldn’t help but feel a chance was missed there. On the other hand, Slater successfully illustrates the fact that Hitler was really not well-supported among members of the regular army.
Trapped in Shades of Grey gives a great view of World War II at ground level, and from an unusual angle. I really enjoyed it, and I recommend that any military or history buffs check it out!
Title: Trapped in Shades of Grey
Author: Christopher Slater
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication: Christopher Slater (2011)
Author’s Website: http://www.trappedinshadesofgrey.com/