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Traitors #1

Traitor's Gate

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Conrad de Lancey has seen enough of evil: the shadow of fear on the faces of innocents; the roar of tanks through empty streets; the sudden lull before the slaughter begins. Franco's bloody insurrection taught this Englishman all about hell.

Arriving in his mother's country, the now Nazi Germany, Conrad is sick at heart. Even Berlin - infamous haven of decadence and vice - salutes fascism. Himmler's black-shirted troops rule the city, and every German arm bears a Swastika. But does every German heart belong to Hitler?

When Conrad is arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of spying, he is rescued by Theo, an old friend from university, now a lieutenant of the Wehrmacht. Together they are drawn into a world of danger and deceit, of plots, paranoia and intrigue where the brave few are united by a single ambition: to free the fatherland from the Führer.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 2013

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About the author

Michael Ridpath

38 books267 followers
Before becoming a writer, Michael Ridpath used to work as a bond trader in the City of London. After writing several financial thrillers, which were published in over 30 languages, he began a crime series featuring the Icelandic detective Magnus Jonson. He has also written five stand-alone thrillers, the latest of which is The Diplomat’s Wife, published in February 2021. He lives in London.

And if you want a free copy of his novella, The Polar Bear Killing, and to sign up to his quarterly newsletter, just click this link: http://eepurl.com/dlzgFH

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5 stars
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104 (29%)
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28 (8%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 51 reviews
Profile Image for Eric_W.
1,914 reviews347 followers
January 1, 2015
According to the author’s note at the end of the book, there was a Wehrmacht plot to assassinate Hitler in 1938. That event serves as the foundation for this novel. I hesitate to called it alternate history for reasons that will become obvious at the end.

The protagonist, Conrad is an idealist and a zealot. We first meet him during the Spanish Civil War where he and two other comrades have just shot three members of the Spanish brigade who were about to rape some nuns. The Catholic Church had always symbolized Nationalist repression. Unfortunately, they were recognized later by a fourth man whom Conrad had only nicked and later shoots both David and Harry in the back during a charge against the Fascists.

So right away several moral dichotomies are presented: did the members of the Spanish Brigade deserve to die to prevent the rape? Did Conrad and his friends deserve to die for killing their allies? Did their actions alter historical events?

Scene shift to several years later. Conrad is now heavily involved as go-between in a plot orchestrated by Admiral Canaris and some higher level German generals and the British government. All fear Hitler's foray into Czechoslovakia but for different reasons. You have to suspend some normal rational thinking as Conrad, speaking fluent German, seems to easily move in the higher levels of British government and, with his aristocratic German friend Theo, German generalship.

I prefer Ridpath’s Fire and Ice series of novels, but the book did hold my interest.
Profile Image for Ant Koplowitz.
337 reviews4 followers
August 3, 2014
I really wanted to enjoy Traitor's Gate by Michael Ridpath, but to be honest it was a bit of a struggle. The underlying premise of a pre-invasion of Czechoslovakia plot to overthrow and arrest Hitler was a good one, but it was let down by some leaden writing and flat characterisation. At times it as so clunky I thought I was reading Five Have a Fantastic Time with the Nazis; there were too many instances of 'Quick, there's a spy' and 'How are we going to crack the secret code', for my liking.

© Koplowitz 2014
Profile Image for S.J.A. Turney.
Author 63 books400 followers
November 7, 2014
There will be those of you out there who watched Valkyrie and loved it.

Traitor’s Gate does the same thing but better.

There will be those who hated Valkyrie.

Traitor’s Gate is more accurate and more tense. You will prefer it.

There will be those who’ve never seen Valkyrie.

Don’t bother. Read Traitor’s Gate!

I’m not an avid reader of the WW2 era, nor a student of the period, though I’ve delved here and there. I’ve watched a number of movies based on the period, including some from the German point of view, but it’s still far from my comfort zone.

To be honest, if a friend of mine had not raved at some point about how good the book was, I would never had picked it up on a whim, needing a change from Roman stuff, and read it.

I’m glad I did. Though early on, I realised that this is not strictly speaking a war book. This is a book about people and espionage and the hell that was the Third Reich before the war. This is a tale about a confused and dreadful time during which trust was hard to come by, and humanity even more so.

Though the direct protagonist and antagonist are fictional, the story introduces us early on as supporting characters to two key figures in the history of the 3rd Reich, both of whom were already familiar to me. Reinhard Heydrich is one. If you know anything about the period, that name should make you shudder. He was one of the architects of the Holocaust and one of the most brutal and unpleasant people during the war, running the Gestapo. The other is admiral Canaris, head of the German secret service, hero of mine and unsung hero of the war. To be honest, if I’d known it involved Canaris, I might have read it earlier.

Essentially, this story tells the dreadful tale of an Englishman in Berlin in 1938 battling with his family loyalties and his conscience in a world rapidly descending into hell. It is refreshing to see a tale that tells of high-powered and intelligent Germans, even in the party itself, understanding that Hitler was bad for Germany as well as for the rest of the world and beginning to put together a plan to remove the Fuhrer from power.

A lot of the story relies on secret negotiations between high level anti-Nazi Germans and peripheral members of the British government, arranging to carry out a coup against Hitler should the Fuhrer decide to invade Czechoslovakia despite British and French opposition.

Traitor’s Gate is a tremendously tense novel, building up with the crescendo of Nazi power in the days before the annexing of the Sudetenland. For those of you who’ve seen Valkyrie, it carries the tense moments of planning the coup in at least as stunning a manner – better, in fact. Despite the fact that even the least informed reader will go into the meat of the novel already aware of the fact that Hitler did not in fact die in 1938, and therefore we know that any plot failed, the novel is so well written that it is impossible not to be swept up in the tension and hope against hope that somehow the plot succeeds. Impressive, that.

In addition to the plot concerning a potential removal of Hitler from power, the story is cleverly interwoven with another thread involving a woman with Jewish ancestry (you can guess the direction that one’s taking.) This allows Ridpath not only to explore aspects of divisions in the higher ranks of the Third Reich and grand moral and political concerns, but also to investigate and reveal the deeper, more personal effects of the rise of Nazi power on the ordinary people of Germany. I gave to say that at least one anecdote told in relation to this thread will stay with me for a long time.

So… the characters are extremely well constructed and smoothly filtered in among real personages of the era, all of whom are excellently portrayed. The feel of the book is utterly atmospheric. It is like stepping into the page and finding yourself in just pre-war Berlin. The plot is tightly-constructed and builds continually to an impressively tense conclusion (especially given the foreknowledge that Hitler doesn’t die!) Clearly Ridpath’s research has been spot on and his storytelling is impeccable.

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is exactly the sort of book I would not have thought to read, and I would have missed out. Don’t make the same mistake. This will most definitely hit my top ten of the year.

Go get it and read it. You will NOT be disappointed.
Profile Image for Tina Tamman.
Author 3 books97 followers
May 16, 2018
I have a friend who doesn't like certain genres (crime for one) and makes the point of defining the genre of a book very early on in our discussions of books. Why I thought of her in connection with this novel is that I'm not sure whether I like thrillers, whether I like the genre. However, there is occasionally in me a yearning to read something exciting, which is what a thriller promises by definition.
This novel seemed to fit the bill. I had bought a copy on somebody's recommendation, liked the setting - Berlin, summer of 1938 and two young men who are fluent in both English and German - but I soon began to wonder whether it should be called a thriller at all (although the front cover proudly says so). Quite a lot of it is to do with the main character's marital problems, which I failed to warm to. I also felt I already knew, before opening the book, how awful the Nazis were and how the Jews were persecuted. And so I needed the story to carry me along but, alas, it failed. Maybe I needed a different book. With this one the plot is essentially given away on the first page: we know that Hitler was not killed in 1938.
Profile Image for Margarita Morris.
Author 10 books53 followers
October 23, 2017
I had never heard of Michael Ridpath until I heard him interviewed on the The Creative Penn podcast. I checked him out because I was interested in his spy thrillers and I'm very glad I did. Traitor's Gate is a meticulously researched novel about a German plot to overthrow Hitler in 1938. It is based on fact, with some fictional characters thrown in, and is an excellent history lesson in how the British government's policy of appeasement caused the plot to fail so that Hitler survived. It's a book that explores conscience and moral duty and the consequences of acting or not acting. The writing is strong and very polished and the plot moves at a crisp pace. I will definitely be reading the sequel.
Profile Image for Wilde Sky.
Author 16 books34 followers
June 29, 2018
Before the start of WWII a plot is hatched to kill Hitler.

The basic idea was good, but I found the writing / dialogue / characters all a bit clunky.
Profile Image for Nicki.
371 reviews7 followers
July 3, 2015
This tale should have been more entertaining that it was. The writing was fairly flat as was the characterisation. Plus the hero is a little too "what ho, chaps!" to take seriously. Conrad does what Conrad wants to do, regardless of the potential consequences for others. It's also hard for the author to build up tension surrounding the main plot line, given that everyone picking up this book is likely to know what actually happened to Hitler in the end. I don't think I'd pick up other Ridpath books based on this one.
Profile Image for Cathy Hayes.
107 reviews2 followers
February 15, 2014
Really disappointed in this book - the subject (the plot to kill Hitler and avoid WWII) was something I'm interested in and I was looking forward to reading it. However, it reads more like a romantic novel than a thriller and the main character acts like a Boy's Own hero, racing round causing havoc yet getting away with it, escaping the clutches of the Gestapo on a number of occasions. Not sure why I persevered to the end, it didn't get any better as it went on...
December 18, 2020
Great story line, an easy book even for somebody not so familiar with the history of nazi germany. Recommend it for anybody who likes true history novels!
204 reviews
November 20, 2018
Conrad de Lancey has seen enough of evil: the shadow of fear on the faces of innocents; the roar of tanks through empty streets; the sudden lull before the slaughter begins. Franco's bloody insurrection taught this Englishman all about hell.

Arriving in his mother's country, the now Nazi Germany, Conrad is sick at heart. Even Berlin - infamous haven of decadence and vice - salutes fascism. Himmler's black-shirted troops rule the city, and every German arm bears a Swastika. But does every German heart belong to Hitler?

When Conrad is arrested by the Gestapo on suspicion of spying, he is rescued by Theo, an old friend from university, now a lieutenant of the Wehrmacht. Together they are drawn into a world of danger and deceit, of plots, paranoia and intrigue where the brave few are united by a single ambition: to free the fatherland from the Führer.
Profile Image for Ches Torrants.
Author 10 books
August 16, 2018
Near the beginning it seemed heavy going. The German names and details, probably authentic and well researched, were tiresome and difficult for an English reader. But the characters and the situations hooked my interest. The author has given us a poignant fantasy, perhaps similar to real-life conspiracies that might have been. There are twists as the central character looks for ways to survive, at least long enough to kill Hitler. We know that he failed, but the ending has some surprises.
Profile Image for Lee.
228 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2019
A plot to kill Hitler, in 1938. The need to convince the UK government to let Hitler declare war on Czechoslovakia so that German generals would stand up to the Fuhrer. What could possibly go wrong?

A mix of real life characters and storylines, and even a love triangle between a British agent, a half Jewish woman and a Gestapo officer, the story weaves towards the somewhat predictable ending - if you know your pre war history that is.

A good read, but predictable.
Profile Image for Kay.
1,635 reviews15 followers
May 22, 2017
A decent prewar thriller based in 1938 Germany. Fiction but based on a what might have been scenario in an attempted coup to get rid of Hitler. Will most definitely appeal to those with a deep interest in that period of history. Not bad at all.

Ray Smillie
13 reviews
July 30, 2019
Enthralling story with a mixture of fact and fiction!

A fast paced piece of fiction laced with fact. It is well written and detailed with believable characters.
At times one had doubts whether the principal persons would ever survive.
559 reviews1 follower
September 12, 2018
It was good - a period piece of 1930's culture as well as being an interesting historic story
Profile Image for Christina.
121 reviews
October 21, 2022
Well, that blurb is a load of old cobblers. Nerve-shredding? Hardly.
A tolerable read but I confess to skipping whole paragraphs due to getting bored with the style of writing.
625 reviews16 followers
February 29, 2016
Of course Hitler was not removed from power in 1938, yet Ridpath constructs a story taut with page-turning tension that makes you forget you know the outcome, or anyway, to hope they will succeed. The blending of fact and fiction is very well done, and Ridpath's depth of research worn lightly, to convey a strong sense of time/place without coming over like a school history book. Ridpath even plays a little with the better known aspects of history, teasing the reader with Chamberlain's famous 'piece of paper'. There is fun to be had trying to work out how Ridpath's novel will reach what we know is the inevitable conclusion of the plot to kill Hitler and stop the slide to world war. I think the appeasement issue comes over very well, through Conrad's father, a decorated Great War veteran so badly damaged psychologically by his experiences in the trenches he will countenance ANY way to avoid another conflict. Chamberlain, too, a man so desperate to secure peace he will ignore or dismiss anything/anyone getting in the way.

While reading this novel I sometimes felt annoyed by the apparently contrived petty actions by characters that had awful, predictable consequences, yet, upon reflection I had to accept people are indeed motivated by anger, jealousy, vengeance, vindictiveness, etc., to act unthinkingly, purposefully, damagingly. It is only afterwards we realise the fallout, and by then it is too late. One quibble is Ridpaths's use and characterisation of his female characters, too often either self-serving, weak, over-emotional, or under-developed instruments of plot/male characters used then disposed of once superfluous. Anneliese, for e.g., you just know as soon as her Jewish background is revealed there will be consequences because her role is to show the Nazi's evolving policies towards Jews and 'political undesirables' and why they must be stopped. To be fair, I was pleasantly surprised by one of the novel's twists involving a minor female character. The book's most interesting relationship for me is that between Conrad and Theo, friends and enemies, patriots and idealists, which rings truer, more meaningful than their dealings with women. Interestingly Gestapo officer Klaus Schalke who starts out as caricature nasty (Ve have vays of making you talk), yet as the story goes on is given layers of complexity, to the extent you can see why he is the way he is, even, very briefly, feel a little sorry for him, a victim of the Nazi regime, not innocent as so many caught in the Gestapo's net but still a man capable of loving and caring.

The novel is a gripping spy thriller and solidly researched and informative historical fiction about Hitler flexing his muscles in the face of world leaders too complacent and eager to maintain peace to realise the true nature and threat of the Third Reich. Conrad is an appealing character, the youthful idealist who votes against fighting for his country in that infamous Oxford debate yet a few years later joins the International Brigade in Spain against the Fascists, only to lose his idealism in the muddied realities of war. Yes, he's a privileged toff, frightfully English, but he has to be in order to move in the right circles at that time for the character believably to play his part in diplomacy and politics. Theo, too, has to be the stiff-backed, heel-clicking Prussian aristo from a long line of military service to the Fatherland, with a sideline in caddish romanticism. It's their conflicted loyalties and very different personalities that make their relationship so intriguing.

I really enjoyed this novel and have moved straight onto the follow-up. More, please, Mr Ridpath!

Profile Image for David Lowther.
Author 5 books27 followers
May 22, 2014
The plot of Traitor's Gate, covering the period leading up to the Munich Agreement in September 1938, dealt with issues that really interest me. Telling such a momentous story and wrapping it around a thriller is a very good approach and, up to a point, it works here, as does Ridpath's inclusion of many real-life characters alongside a number of fictional ones.

What I didn't like were some of the portrayals of the real-life characters. Neville Chamberlain was a cold, calculating and arrogant man who, had he been in office today, would probably have been sacked for the way in which he endeavoured to interfere with the freedom of the press. His two acolytes Horace Wilson and Jo Ball were responsible for many of Chamberlain's undemocratic acts (Wilson appears in the book but Ball doesn't) and Sir Neville Henderson (GB Ambassador in Berlin) was an absolute shocker. Vansittart was a dyed-in-the-wool anti Nazi and would not have hesitated when asked for his support for a military coup in Germany. Lord Halifax was a strong appeaser at the time of Munich (saw sense later) and Geoffrey Dawson (Editor of the The Times) played a major role in selling out Czechoslovakia though the infamous editorial in that paper in September 1938. Ridpath is quite right in suggesting that the war might have been avoided had the French and British stood up to Hitler in 1938 and he is right in his assertion that Hitler's position was very vulnerable in the autumn of 1938.

So that part of the novel I didn't like because, rather like Michael Dobbs' Churchill trilogy, it all felt rather lightweight. The thriller element, however, was excellent with some very well-drawn characters, excellent location description and an exciting tale.

David Lowther. Author of The Blue Pencil (thebluepencil.co.uk)
Profile Image for Samantha.
298 reviews2 followers
June 21, 2013
I have liked all the other books by this author, so even though German war books aren't generally my thing I bought this one when it was released. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Yes, it's about the immediate build-up to WW2, set in Berlin and involving all the different German police and military organisations and lots of plotting and counter-plotting, but the story is told in terms of the people involved and their backgrounds, relationships and values. Perhaps predictably, one of the themes is of pre-war friends of different nationalities who find themselves in a position where they may be asked to try and kill each other should war break out. Still, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and the plot device works well here.

The first half of the book is building the story, setting the scene and getting the main protagonists into position ready to roll, and the second half, when it all starts to happen, is quite a ride. I found myself reading the last 100 pages when I should have been working. There are some story threads that fizzle out that I would have liked to see concluded (Veronica after the rally and the outcome of the tart-on-a-train episode), but it can be difficult to tidy everything up without being trite at the end of a book.

Overall this is a good thriller based on fact, which makes it more compelling. I recommend it.

And now, Mr Ridpath, will you please get a move on with Fire and Ice 4!
Profile Image for Derek McCabrey.
19 reviews2 followers
July 11, 2016
Michael Ridpath expertly weaves various strands of historical fact ams characters along with his own inventions, to create a story that sits well in the realms of plausibility. The main character, Conrad, is a rather resouceful, if reticent, anti-hero who is pledged to bring down the snake of the third reich by cutting off its head. So what is wrong with that you might ask: the story is well-told and is rich in historical reference to make the reader wonder, at some point, if such a plot did in fact happen. Spendid storytelling if taken at face value. If, though, you sense a "but..." coming, you would be correct. The story is enjoyable enough, but the outlining of the players and their plans in the drama presumes that the reader will accept them at that face value. We, of course, are at a disadvantage - very few people survive who actually personally knew Hitler and his officials or enemy agents like Conrad and so Michael Ridpath writes here without the conviction necessary to make the reader actually care about them or what even will happen to them?" And so it's the superficiality of everything in the story that makes it, for me, lightweight; a missed opportunity to create a memorable account of plots and plotters. But even though I had to force myself to finish it, I gave it three stars because if you want a book to be mildly entertaining to, say, pass the time whilst on holiday then this book is ideal.
Profile Image for Evan Harte.
53 reviews1 follower
June 24, 2016
Although this book is very fast paced (never boring), I did feel that things went by too fast. I found myself longing for more character development, especially of Conrad and Anneliese.

I also felt that the minor characters in this novel (and there are several of them) are not memorable. Because of this, I found myself losing track of who is who and what department (Gestapo, Wehrmacht, secret police, etc.) they are a part of.

Because of this, I only rate this novel a 3/5. That being said, the novel is an interesting, in-depth look at the behind the scenes action that took place in Berlin, 1938. The topic itself is interesting enough to keep the reader hooked; it also helps that the action never seems to stop.

I do think I will eventually check out the sequel, Shadow of War, just to see what Conrad is able to pull off after the events in this novel.
Profile Image for Anthony Irven.
47 reviews1 follower
July 9, 2014
This was a good read! Partly based on fact and using an amalgam of characters from pre war Germany in the 1930s, Conrad our hero and all round good guy plots and plans the assassination of all round bad guy, Hitler!
Will Conrad murder Hitler and save the world from war as he is tracked down by the brutes who inhabit the Gestapo. It builds to crescendo, and well we all know what really happened and that is the way it turns out here! They reach the inner sanctum of Hitler and just walk away!
Ridpath is good with male characters in this book, but I thought the women characters were pretty insipid, the doting girlfriend, the Hitler loving girl who knows no better and betrays Conrad's cousin to the Gestapo.
Overall a good read.
Profile Image for Humphrey Hawksley.
Author 23 books62 followers
June 29, 2013
Amid colourful and well-drawn characters, Michael Ridpath dissects divisions within the British and German governments in 1938 as war looms over Europe. As Traitor's Gate unfolds we see the blur and conflict of loyalty to country, friends, family, institution and personal values. None is clear. The conversation between Conrad de Lancey and the British ambassador to Berlin, Sir Nevile Henderson is enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck in fury. This masterful novel is drawn from fact -- not least that in September 1938 Hitler was hours away from being ousted in a coup. But it never happened because Neville Chamberlain sued for peace.
Profile Image for Nigel.
236 reviews3 followers
December 20, 2013
This was the first electronic book I had read and I'm not sure if I struggled with that or the writing style as I had immense difficulty finding the enthusiasm to pick it up ( I'll give Ridpath the benefit of the doubt as I've read one of his books before and enjoyed it, so I'll blame the format.) It was interesting enough in both an educational and entertaining sense but it seemed Ridpath tried too hard with the language of the day, sometimes making me feel I had a young adults book in my hands.
Profile Image for Khoa Dang.
45 reviews1 follower
May 3, 2016
An intriguing historical fiction novel with rich description of events and solid depiction of each character's life, emotions, thoughts and actions that are shaped by the outcome of events beyond the reach of individuals. As a fan of historical fiction, I found this book quite fascinating, not to mention the breath-holding moments when the people risked life and limb in their effort to confront and defeat the evil that was looming over Europe's political landscape- an element of thriller skillfully injected into the narrative by Michael Ridpath.
Profile Image for Leslie.
1 review1 follower
June 25, 2013
Germany, WW2, generally not my first choice, but I am glad I made it. The story sheds light on a failed coup to overthrow Hitler. I found it interesting to learn about the number of Germans, within the military and secret service, who were united to remove an evil man from power. It is a story with layers of characters that paint a new light on the resistance. Obviously I knew what the outcome would be, but Micael's writing kept me hoping for a change in history.
Profile Image for Michael.
131 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2013
A great historical novel! I really would have liked to have given this book 5 stars and it deserves this for a superb gripping plot. sheer entertainment value and quality writing. For me 5 stars is for books that really touch my heart and stay with me and this misses out for this reason only. If you like Philip Kerr and David Downing and their depiction of 1930's Berlin then this is easily as good. Very highly recommended, one of the best books I have read in recent years!
48 reviews
June 18, 2014
An excellent and thrilling page-turner set amongst the high-flying, cloak-and-dagger world of diplomacy and conspiracy in Nazi Germany on the brink of war. Conrad de Lancey is your stereotypical young English gentleman abroad, refusing to let his conflicting emotions and ideologies dampen that infamous stiff upper lip. Although the writing can fall a little flat at times, and the denouement lacking, the build-up of suspense is masterful and it is a very entertaining read.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,664 reviews277 followers
September 17, 2013
spy thriller based in late 1930's Germany around time of the munich crisis and based in berlin and the initial plot to dislodge hitler from power as to avoid a pending war. this novel is loosely based on real events and feel the sinister ways of the third reich as the plotters aim in their pursuit of their goals.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 51 reviews

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