The Last Innocent Hour

4.1 avg rating
( 139 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780099992707: The Last Innocent Hour

It is 1946 and Berlin is a ruined city, the Nazis vanquished, but memories of the city in 1934 haunt Sally as she returns to investigate war crimes as an army intelligence officer. Her father was the American ambassador to the new Third Reich and Sally was too naIve to understand the corruption and depravity underneath the shiny surface of banners and marching men. Childhood summers at a Bavarian lake made her believe she knew Germany.

Her job, which helps expiate her old guilt, is analyzing photographs; she is no longer innocent of the evil done by the Nazis. In the American sector offices, Sally finds friendship with the other members of her unit, especially with Tim Hastings. His easy, relaxed friendship is a balm to her frozen heart. She does fear he will despise her when he learns about her past, especially her marriage to Christian Mayr, an SS officer.

He was a rising officer under the command of General Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the dreaded secret police. Apparently supporting the young couple, Heydrich's manipulations instead tore them apart, nearly taking Sally's life, certainly shredding her soul. She does not know what happened to Christian.

Sally studies a series of pictures documenting a wartime atrocity, a reprisal by the Nazis after the 1942 assassination of Heydrich. Stunned, Sally believes she can recognize the SS commander as her husband. It is logical that Mayr was sent to revenge his chief.

But Christian was also Sally's loyal childhood friend, and then her passionate husband. Sally believed in Christian, in their love and she believed that Berlin and Heydrich could not touch them. Now, in 1946, she understands love does not always triumph, but how could Christian have become the man in the photograph? And is he still alive?

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Review:

This is a good yarn set against a historical background that continues to galvanize the imagination. Washington Post

Margot Abbott's skillfully written first novel manages to capture the essence of pre- and postwar Berlin while detailing a love affair that turns into a nightmare. Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

With the elan of a born story-teller the author paints vivid pictures of a decadent Berlin before the war and a desolate Berlin afterward. Sally Jackson is an admirable, multilayered heroine, but Christian Mayr is even more fascinating. Ms. Abbott explores the very nature of evil and the implications of loving a perpetrator of evil. The Last Innocent Hour humanizes stereotypes while telling a magnificent love story. Atlanta Journal Constitution & Chicago Tribune

Abbott does a superb job recreating the climate of pre-war Germany...all of Abbott's diverse cast of characters are believable and, more important, engaging. San Jose Mercury

...absorbing first novel, which skillfully evokes life in the '30s and '40s is the story of a woman who loses her ideals and her love to the ravages of World War II in Nazi Germany...fascinating psychological drama. Richmond, VA Times-Dispatch

With "Innocent Hour's" characters we are reminded of the Chinese curse "May you live interesting times..".the book is brilliant in its evocation of time, place and character. Star-News Pasadena, CA

Margot Abbott has spun a tingling story replete with the elements of a thriller: a heroine with a mysterious past, an impassioned but doomed love, and an adversary who embodies power and evil. Oakland Tribune

To be young in Hitler's Third Reich was a ghastly accident of birth. And to be in love was to risk losing all that you most valued to the Nazi nightmare. So Margot Abbott perceives in The Last Innocent Hour, a huge, emotive and vividly researched novel of wartime Germany...the novel deepens into a disturbing psychological drama about soul-destroying shame - the legacy of Sally's all-too-human fascination for decadence and for a golden boy wearing a Haupstumfurhrer's uniform. This sweeping tale of innocence, evil and hard-won redemption contrives to charm, repel and rivet you by turns. It leaves you wondering if, given the misfortune to have lived through those horrific times, you would yourself have found the strength to resist evil with courage, or give way to fear. She Magazine, U.K

From Kirkus Reviews:

Girl meets boy, boy meets S.S. in this sturdy, sudsy pre- and postwar Nazi gothic. Like other gothic heroines, Sally Jackson is ambivalently drawn to remote, masterful men--her blank ambassadorial father, her radiantly blond childhood sweetheart Christian Mayr, and S.S. chief Reinhard Heydrich, much the most magnetic of the three. Sandwiched between a 1946 prologue and an epilogue--in which sadder-but-wiser Sally, now examining photographs for military intelligence, searches for confirmation that Christian survived the surrender and is implicated in war crimes--a long flashback shows Sally growing up alongside Christian's wholesome Bavarian family, returning to Germany when FDR taps her father to head the legation, finding a fencing coach with Heydrich's help and playing duets with him as he climbs the Nazi hierarchy, asking his help in locating Christian (who naturally turns up on Heydrich's own S.S. staff), dallying briefly with Jewish newspaperman David Wohl, and finally settling into a perilous romantic triangle: Christian, overcoming his initial reluctance to get involved with his general's woman, attacks, impregnates, and marries her, and sweeps her off on a storybook honeymoon, while Heydrich (``You never call me by my name'') plots against them, throwing Christian into prison, announcing that he intends to destroy Sally by making her desire him, and intimating that he's been behind Christian's tender/brutal behavior all along. The predictable climax comes when Heydrich forces her to cross swords with him literally, setting Christian's freedom against her unborn baby's life. A fascinating twist on the premise of gothic romance: it's the Nazis who are responsible for the brooding hero's threatening mood swings. The large readership that the publisher predicts for this naively disillusioned first novel won't mind that the last innocent hour of the ambassador's daughter lasts for chapter after improbable chapter. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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