Publication Date: 5th January 2021
Publisher: Sapere Books
Page Length: 320 pages
Genre: WW2 Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sapere Books
Page Length: 320 pages
Genre: WW2 Historical Fiction
A thread of hope in dangerous times
Nazi-occupied Norway 1942
Schoolteacher Astrid Dahl has always kept out of trouble. But when she is told to teach the fascist Nazi curriculum, she refuses and starts a teacher’s rebellion, persuading eight thousand teachers to go on strike. The Germans arrest her, and terrified of what punishment her trial might bring, she is forced to go into hiding.
She sets up an illegal school and there she befriends a young Jewish girl, Sara, and her father Isaak, who is on the run from deportation. But the Nazis are determined to find her, and when they close in, Astrid decides they must make a desperate bid for freedom by leaving Norway.
Meanwhile, Astrid's boyfriend, Jørgen, has joined the Norwegian Resistance. When his cover is blown he escapes to Shetland where he is taken on as crew for the Shetland Bus; a dangerous clandestine operation of small fishing boats that supply arms and intelligence to war-torn Norway.
In Shetland, hearing Astrid is in trouble, Jørgen sets off through enemy waters to meet her. Each have only three days to make the rendezvous on the coast of Norway and must use all their courage and resources to get there.
But the Nazis have a spy on Shetland, and have been tipped off about the Shetland Bus.
With the Nazis in pursuit from both directions, will Astrid and Jørgen be able to make it in time?
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*Giveaway closes on January 4th 2021
Book is published on January 5th.
Nazi-Occupied Norway January 1942
Astrid skied rapidly downhill, heart pumping. It was a risk coming all this way alone, where there was always the possibility she might meet up with some Germans. If she was perfectly honest, she was terrified. A woman on her own was asking for trouble. But Jørgen had been kingpin in the ski club and she’d plucked up enough courage to pretend to be the kind of intrepid girl she thought he’d like, even though it made her stomach crease with nerves.
She brought her watch up to her eyes and squinted at it. Saturday at four o’clock, he’d said. No earlier, as he’d still be at work, and Jørgen was always very precise with things like being on time. She knew her way to the mountain hut though, and she was going to get there first. She’d surprise him, and get the place ready, the fire lit and a hot dinner bubbling on the stove.
Still spooked that someone else might be out there watching, she slowed her slalom and scanned the horizon. Nothing. Just crisp white snow flowing into the few patches of Norwegian spruce. Relieved, she wheeled to a stop, admiring the view now she was away from the oppressive streets of Oslo. The snow gave off plenty of reflected light though the sky was already dimming, at only three. That was winter in Norway for you, long and dark.
Almost there. She sped onward with only the few early stars dotted above, and the chill wind making her cheeks ache with cold. At the next fold in the hills, the familiar roof of the hut made a sharp angle against the white.
A sting of disappointment. Damn, he was there before her after all.
A trickle of grey smoke was spiraling from the chimney, and a rectangle of light bled from the window, where the blackout blind was too short.
She looked to the other ridge, to where a single pair of ski-tracks led down.
His, probably. He must have finished work early.
Maybe she could still give him a surprise. She slipped off her skis and waded through the drift to the window, bending down until she could see him through the crack beneath the blackout blind.
She paused, breath steaming the glass. What was he doing? An oil lamp lit the room, and as she squinted in, she made out that he was sitting at the table, wearing earphones. A box with a bunch of wires coming out of it was attached to a battery in an open suitcase. She cupped a hand over the glass, and stared as he tapped a forefinger onto a black button. There was a notebook open beside him. He glanced at it, and continued to tap. He was sending a message by Morse code.
Should she interrupt him? She knocked. A quiet rap.
He didn’t hear. She knocked louder and he leapt up, startled. The earphones were yanked off his head by his movement, his hand shot to his pocket, and before she could make a sound, a gun pointed directly at the window.
She threw herself flat on the ground into the soft pile of snow. A moment later and the hut door banged back against the wall. A torch beam skewed wildly side to side.
‘Jørgen, no!’ she cried, holding up her hands. ‘Don’t shoot! It’s me. Astrid.’
‘What the hell…?’
She sat up, brushing snow from her jacket. Her voice came out more tearful than she expected. ‘I wanted to surprise you.’
‘You idiot. We said four o’clock.’ He was shoving the gun back in his pocket. ‘I could have killed you.’
‘How was I to know? Who gave you that gun?’
‘Come inside, I can explain there.’
She was wary; fear had made her jittery.
‘It’s all right,’ he said. ‘It’s just I wasn’t expecting you. You made me jump. I can explain. But I need to finish sending my message first, or they’ll think something bad’s happened to me.’
‘Who? What are you doing?’
‘I didn’t want you to know. It’s too much of a risk.’ He sighed heavily. ‘But … just sit quietly a moment and let me finish, then I’ll explain. It’s important. Norwegian lives depend on it, and this time slot’s critical.’
She perched on the hard wooden bench on the opposite side of the table. In her canvas rucksack she had some pork belly that she’d queued for hours to get, and a small flask of brandy she’d been saving for tonight. She unscrewed the bottle and took a large swig. She needed it. Her legs were trembling, she was uncertain whether from cold or shock. Only Nazis had guns.
Jørgen put the earphones back on over his thick fair hair, and tuned in the box in front of him with a few twists of a dial. After a few moments his face lit up, and he made a few taps in Morse, and then a few more, faster. In this light, the white scar on his eyebrow where he’d slalomed into a tree stood out like a slash. His eyes were fixed only on the notebook in front of him, his shoulders hunched and tight. She might as well not have existed.
In less than thirty seconds he turned everything off and packed it all back into the suitcase in a business-like way. He stood on the table, heaved the case up, and slid open a panel in the ceiling. Once the case was stowed away, he pulled the panel back and vaulted easily to the ground. The notebook went into his trouser pocket.
‘Oh Lord, Astrid. I’m sorry.’
He tried to take her hand, but she wanted answers.
‘What’s going on? You could have killed me with that thing.’
‘I’m sorry.’ He shook his head as if to shake the whole situation away. Then his expression turned darker. ‘You didn’t see any of that,’ he said.
A look at his face showed he was deadly serious.
‘Okay,’ Astrid said. ‘But before I tell you I saw nothing, I have to know. I saw you transmitting something, but who are you doing this for?’
His eyes widened. ‘You really have to ask?’ He sat down opposite, leaned his elbows on the table. ‘The Milorg. The Resistance.’
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