A Kill in the Morning, the debut thriller by Graeme Shimmin, is a bit tricky to categorise. On the face of it the book can be firmly slotted into the alternate history sub-genre. After all we are dealing with a book set in a world where Britain negotiated a peace with Germany in 1941 and now in 1955 a Cold War exists between the British Empire and the German Reich.
However it quickly becomes apparent that the book really wants to be a James Bond style thriller with the central (unnamed) narrator being a British secret agent. Our hero has being going on personal unsactioned missions into the heart of the German Reich. His ultimate objective is to kill Reinhard Heydrich, head of the SS.
However as the book progresses it becomes something else entirely different and certainly can be placed firmly in the science fiction category.
Credit to the publishers for going for a nice pulp cover design with Actual Art That An Artist Actually Created. (It is so refreshing to see an actual piece of art on the cover of a book instead of the usual photoshopped “silhouette of man in trench coat running down the street” rubbish.)
Two of the most memorable supporting characters that appear are Molly, a former Irish SOE agent and Kitty, a pacifist member of the German anti-Nazi resistance.
The book is well written and researched and there is lots of nice “world building”. The author has taken the time to map out the alternate history events between 1941 and 1955 and includes the timeline at the end of the book along with a helpful glossary.
I note the Britain of this alternate 1955 is probably a bit more advanced that in our actual history. For example the RAF has a supersonic version of the Avro Vulcan bomber plus Britain seems to have developed a nuclear bomb on its own. Perhaps these technological developments are in response to the British/German Cold War and the fact that the USA seems not to be involved in European affairs.
Each chapter is preceded with mysterious quotes from the journal of an SS officer who was part of an expedition that apparently discovered something of great importance. Perhaps this will form the basis of a companion novel. And certainly the short epilogue to this book hints at more story to be told.
So in summary an enjoyable debut from this author. If you enjoy Ian Fleming style adventures or alternate history then it’s worth a look.
A Kill in the Morning is out now in paperback in the UK.