First U.S. edition.
Publisher, Date:
New York : Ballantine Books, 2019.
305 pages ; 25 cm.
"In the start of an all-new mystery series set in pre-World War II Europe, an intrepid young photographer carries her imperiled lover's final, urgent message into the heart of Berlin as Hitler ascends to power. On vacation from London on the beautiful Italian coast, twenty-eight-year-old Elena Standish and her older sister Margot have finally been able to forget some of the lasting trauma of the Great War. Touring with her camera in hand, Elena has found new inspiration in the striking Italian landscape, and she's met an equally striking man named Ian. Not ready to part from one another, she and Ian share a train trip home to England. But a shocking murder disrupts their agenda, forcing Elena to personally deliver a message to Berlin that could change the fate of Europe. Back home, Elena's diplomat father and secretive grandfather--the former head of MI6, unbeknownst to his family--are involved in their own international machinations. Working behind the scenes as Elena tries to complete her mission on the ground, they interfere with a crucial political rally for one of Germany's most outspoken fascists. With Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich on the rise, and Elena caught in the middle of an international incident, anyone she encounters might be part of a deadly plot. In the first novel of a riveting new series by bestselling author Anne Perry, family secrets merge with suspense on the world stage, and Elena learns that, in these complicated times, no one can be trusted, and she must learn to rely only on herself"-- Provided by publisher.
9780525620983 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
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Author Notes
Anne Perry is the New York Times bestselling author of two acclaimed series set in Victorian England: the William Monk novels, including Dark Tide Rising and An Echo of Murder, and the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, including Murder on the Serpentine and Treachery at Lancaster Gate . She is also the author of a new series featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt's son, Daniel, including Twenty-one Days and Triple Jeopardy ; as well as five World War I novels; sixteen holiday novels, most recently A Christmas Gathering ; and a historical novel, The Sheen on the Silk , set in the Ottoman Empire. Anne Perry lives in Los Angeles.
First Chapter or Excerpt
Chapter 1 1933 Elena narrowed her eyes against the dazzling sunlight reflected off the sea. It was warm in the late May morning, the light so much softer here in Amalfi than it would have been at home, on the English coast. Brilliant sprays of bougainvillea arched against the sky, burning purples and magentas, vibrant with color but without perfume. They covered parts of the ancient walls; old, mellow stone houses; and flights of stairs down toward the whispering sea. There were glimpses of mosaic pavement, two thousand years old, and children playing marbles. Above them seagulls hovered on the wind, looking for scraps. Elena was staring at a woman farther down the steep hill. She wore a scarlet dress and was dancing by herself, within her own imagination, perhaps lost in time in this exquisite town on the edge of the Mediterranean, which had lured the Caesars from the wealth and intrigue of Rome to dally here. "Do you suppose she is real?" a man's voice asked gently behind Elena, on the edge between pleasure and laughter. "Or could she be a figment of a fevered imagination?" She turned to look at him. He was noticeably taller than she, and the sun caught the auburn lights in his thick hair. His face was in shadow, but she could see the outline of it, his strong bones. "Oh, she's real," she replied with a wide smile. "Should I be sorry? Would a vision be better?" "Only for a little while. Reality always comes back. If it didn't, you'd be considered mad." "Oh dear," she said, keeping a straight face with some difficulty. "And I thought dancing in a red dress was the ultimate sanity." He shrugged. "An old woman with a bag of onions would be more interesting than most of the delegates at the economics conference I'm attending!" Elena laughed outright. "I will tell Margot you said that!" "Margot? Is that her name?" "A woman, dancing alone in a red dress? That could only be my sister Margot!" She meant both the implied praise and the exasperation, and yet fleetingly she wished that the figure could have been her. The man looked startled, as if unsure for a moment whether to believe her or not. She saw it and laughed again. "Really." Margot was her older sister, who had come to this very tedious conference on a whim. She was bored, and she had wanted to go to Amalfi anyway, so she had offered to accompany Elena, who was to photograph the delegates. "It will be more fun to go together," Margot had insisted. "You can't take photographs all the time," she had added in the slightly disparaging way she always used when speaking of Elena's photography. For Margot, Elena's photography was something to do and a way to make a moderate living, but she also knew it was a passion that she herself did not understand. Elena could not argue. Margot could usually read her too well, at least when it came to uncomfortable things like self-protecting lies. Perhaps because she was four years older. And of course Margot knew about Aiden Strother. Not all of it. Nobody but Elena knew that, although no doubt others had guessed. Elena had started out after university in a high position in the Foreign Office, due not only to her excellent academic record, but in large part to her father's position over the years as British ambassador in several of the most important cities in Europe: Berlin, Paris, and Madrid in particular. Elena had fallen in love with Aiden while working for him. It had been easy to do. He was charming, handsome in a wry, good-humored way, and clever. Very clever. He fooled them all utterly, even Elena. She was too in love to accept the signs, which in hindsight she now saw quite clearly. He had betrayed them all, and she had been stupid enough to help him, albeit unwittingly. Looking back, she burned with shame at her own stupidity. The only good thing was that nobody thought her guilty of complicity, only of being young and incredibly naïve. All the same, she had been asked to leave, to the acute shame and embarrassment of her father, Charles. He had felt that, of his two daughters, she was the one to follow in his footsteps, perhaps rise as high as a woman could in the Foreign Office. Elena's brief enchantment with Aiden was still an obstacle between her and her father. She was guilty of gross stupidity and had not denied it. It still hurt when anyone chose to mention it, not out of longing for a love lost--or even an illusion of it--but because she had been stupid and had let everyone down, especially herself. Charles had never quite understood his elder daughter, Margot, though he had always adored and admired her. Everyone felt the consuming grief that had smothered her life when her husband of one week had been killed in the last month of the war. Now, alone in the square below, Margot had stopped dancing and was beginning to walk slowly up the steps toward Elena and the young man, every now and again lost to sight by a bend in the walls or an overexuberant bower of colored bracts. "Don't tell me she's an economist?" The young man spoke again, amusement still in his voice, but quieter, as if he were aware of her momentary emotional absence. Fifteen years after the war, everyone still had their griefs: loss of someone, something, a hope or an innocence, if not more. And fear of the future. It was in the air, in the music, the humor, even the exquisite, now fading light. "Certainly not." Elena kept the lift in her voice with an effort. "And please don't ask me if I am." "I wouldn't dream of it." He held out his hand. "Ian Newton. Economic journalist. Sometimes." She took it. It was strong and warm, holding hers firmly. "Elena Standish. Photographer. Sometimes." "How do you do?" he replied, and then let go of her hand. "And that is my sister, Margot Driscoll," Elena said. "Not Standish . . . she's here with her husband?" "Margot is a widow. Her husband, Paul, was killed in the war." Ian Newton nodded. Of course . . . This was a situation encountered every day, even now. He looked over to Margot, destined to dance alone in a world populated by superfluous women. "Will you and Mrs. Driscoll dine with me tonight?" "I'd like that," Elena answered for both of them. "Thank you. We're staying at the Santa Catalina." "I know." "Do you?" "Certainly. I followed you here." She did not know whether to believe him, but it was, surprisingly, a nice idea. "Eight o'clock? In the dining room?" she suggested. "I'll be waiting for you by the door," he replied, then turned and walked away up the hill easily, straight-backed. The next moment, Margot appeared on the steps from the square. She was as unlike Elena as sisters could be. Margot had dark eyes and hair like black silk. She was lean and elegant, no matter what she wore. Elena was the same height; she had a certain grace, but she could not match Margot's. Her eyes were quite ordinary blue, and her hair was nearly blond. She felt insipid beside Margot's drama. "Daydreaming again?" Margot asked, exasperation thinly veiled in her voice. She hardly ever forgot her four years' seniority. "If you want to be a serious photographer, you'll have to take some decent pictures, which you won't do standing here." "I don't know," Elena said patiently. She had been nagged many times before, and although she knew it was true, she also knew Margot said it out of frustration and affection. "I got a couple of a woman dancing alone in the square below, in a scarlet dress. A little crazy, but a nice study." Temper flashed in Margot's eyes for an instant, and then vanished again. "I'll have them, please." "Don't be daft!" Elena said impatiently. "I'm not wasting film on you. I just like watching you enjoy yourself." It was the truth. Margot put her arm round Elena and silently they walked up the hill, toward the hotel. Excerpted from Death in Focus: An Elena Standish Novel by Anne Perry All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Fiction/Biography Profile
Elena Standish (Female), Photographer, British, Daughter of a diplomat; her grandfather was former head of MI6; lost her brother in the Great War; goes on vacation to Italy with her sister Margot
Margot (Female), British, Widow, Elena's older sister; lost her brother and her husband in the Great War; goes to Italy with Elena
Fathers and daughters
Family secrets
London, England - Europe
Italy - Europe
Berlin, Germany - Europe
Time Period
-- 20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

It's 1933, and photographer Elena Standish is happily flirting with an attractive man while vacationing on the Amalfi coast. She doesn't expect to have her holiday sidetracked by an urgent mission to Berlin, to warn authorities about plans for an assassination with the potential to shatter Europe. Elena is in over her head, unsure whom to trust, but determined to complete the mission. In addition, she's been taking photos of shocking political events that should be shared with the world. Back at home, Elena's grandfather, the retired head of MI6, finds evidence of a traitor on the British side, which could throw everything into chaos. Perry ("Charlotte & Thomas Pitt" and "William Monk" series) has found the perfect time period to showcase a family's impassioned defense of democracy and social justice in the face of rising totalitarianism. VERDICT Obvious comparisons to Charles Todd's Bess Crawford and Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs are warranted, but this novel also hearkens back to Helen MacInnes's classic spy thrillers and Mary Stewart's romantic suspense novels. At turns heartbreaking and action-packed, this gripping and superbly written story proves Perry still has what it takes. [See Prepub Alert, 2/25/19.]--Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.

  Publishers Weekly Review

In 1933, British photographer Elena Standish, the heroine of this promising series launch from bestseller Perry (the William Monk series), travels to Amalfi, Italy, to take pictures of delegates to an economic conference. One night at her hotel, Elena and a fellow countryman she meets on the trip, Ian Newton, investigate after hearing a maid cry out. The maid has found a man's body in a hotel room. Elena is skeptical when Ian, who says he's a sometime economic journalist, nervously denies he knows the murdered man. Nonetheless, she finds herself falling for Ian, and when he gets an urgent summons to leave Amalfi, she agrees to accompany him on part of his journey. After violence strikes again, Ian reveals that he works for MI6 and he's trying to prevent the murder of a German admiral in Berlin, a crime the plotters hope to pin on the British. Circumstances compel Elena to take an active role in his mission. Readers will root for the forceful, independent Elena, who will appeal to Maisie Dobbs fans. Perry knows how to ratchet up the international intrigue. Agent: Donald Maass, Donald Maass Literary. (Sept.)

  Booklist Review

Vacationing with her sister in pre-WWII Italy, photographer Elena Standish falls in love and impulsively accompanies her new boyfriend, Ian, to Paris, from where she will return home to England. Just before leaving, Elena finds a murder victim in her hotel, a tragedy that sets the stage for more deaths. En route to Paris by train, Ian is also killed, leaving Elena to deliver his dying-breath message, which will help foil a plan to frame Britain for the killing of a Nazi leader. Elena's many narrow escapes and Perry's immersive re-creation of Nazi-era Europe will keep readers enthralled by this series debut. The numerous characters working behind the scenes both for and against Elena her beloved grandfather, for example, who is the former head of MI6 are well drawn, but it is the smart, gritty heroine herself who will ensure that readers eagerly anticipate the next in the series. In the meantime, those looking for read-alikes could try some of Perry's WWI-set titles, such as No Graves as Yet (2003) and Shoulder the Sky (2004).--Henrietta Verma Copyright 2010 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Perry (Triple Jeopardy, 2019, etc.) kicks off her latest series by sending an English photographer who ought to know better into Nazi Germany in 1933.Elena Standish may be four years younger than her more worldly sister, Margot, who was widowed by the Great War only a week into her marriage, but her grandfather Lucas Standish was secretly head of MI6 during the war; her isolationist father, Charles Standish, served by turns as England's ambassador to Germany, France, and Spain; and she learned the bitter taste of betrayal from Aiden Strother, the beau who turned on both her and her country. So you'd think she'd know a thing or two about how to deal with tricky situationsand in her own way, she does. When Ian Newton, an attentive economic journalist she's met in Amalfi, is stabbed to death during their train journey from Milan to Paris and alerts her as he's dying that he's an MI6 agent who's learned of a plot to assassinate Hitler ally Friedrich Scharnhorst during a rally in Berlin, she instantly accepts the responsibility of passing on his warning to Roger Cordell at the British Embassy there. Elena has no way of knowing that Peter Howard, Lucas' friend who's still active in MI6, suspects Cordell of being a turncoat. Only after Scharnhorst is felled by a sniper's bullet as Elena is snapping his picture and she returns to her hotel to find the murder weapon stashed in her wardrobe does she realize that whoever killed Scharnhorst intended to frame Ian and is now perfectly willing to frame her. Going on the run, she plunges into a dark world in which it's impossible to know whom to trust, who'll help her escape, and who'll turn her over to the Gestapo. Although her adventures, which improbably continue after she's placed under arrest, come fast enough to cause whiplash, most readers will figure out long before Elena who's most directly responsible for her peril.Sturdy woman-on-the-run period intrigue with a strong rooting interest and a weak ending. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
In the start of an all-new mystery series set in pre-World War II Europe, an intrepid young photographer carries her dead lover's final, world-shattering message into the heart of Berlin as Hitler ascends to power. <br> <br> On vacation from London on the beautiful Italian coast, twenty-eight-year-old Elena Standish and her older sister, Margot, have finally been able to move on from the lasting trauma of the Great War, in which the newly married Margot lost her husband and the sisters their beloved brother. Touring with her camera in hand, Elena has found new inspiration in the striking Italian landscape, and she's met an equally striking man named Ian. When Ian has to leave unexpectedly, Elena--usually the more practical of the sisters--finds she's not ready to part from him, and the two share a spontaneous train trip home to England. But a shocking sequence of events disrupts their itinerary, forcing Elena to personally deliver a message to Berlin on Ian's behalf, one that could change the fate of Europe.<br> <br> Back home, Elena's diplomat father and her secretive grandfather--once head of MI6, unbeknownst to his family--are involved in their own international machinations. Worried when Elena still hasn't returned from Italy, her grandfather starts to connect the dots between her change in plans and an incident in Berlin, where Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich are on the rise. It seems the message Elena delivered has forced her into a dangerous predicament, and her grandfather's old contacts from MI6 may be the only people who can get her out alive--if Elena can tell the difference between her allies and her enemies.<br> <br> New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry merges family secrets with suspense on the world stage, as darkness bubbles under the surface of a Europe on the brink of change. In these complicated times, Elena emerges as a strong new heroine who learns quickly that when nothing is certain, she can rely only on herself.<br> <br> Advance praise for Death in Focus <br> <br> "Masterful! It's exceedingly rare for an author to have the talent to blend classic elements of a thriller with compelling family dynamics and geopolitical intrigue, but Anne Perry pulls it off like the consummate pro that she is. And, on top of all that, Death in Focus is written in her unique literary voice. I guarantee you'll love Elena Standish. Brava!" -- Jeffery Deaver, author of The Never Game<br>
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