A riveting spy story with deep themes, Ashika Hira
July 22, 2022
Joe is back at it again, still deep undercover as Jürgen Weyl, in Brain Falkner’s third and final book in the Katipo Joe series. Published in 2022 by Scholastic, we join Joseph St George again, this time with even more danger and secrecy. This is the closest that any British spy has gotten to Hitler, and Joe must work hard to maintain this cover, but it won’t be easy! Although Joe has friends who know who he is, that just means there is more of a chance to get discovered. And people are starting to get skeptical. Will Joe be able to evade suspicion and remain under cover?
After spiriting his mother away to safety Joe decides to return to the belly of the beast, but is soon questioning this decision. People are starting to get suspicious, and the head of the Gestapo is onto him. Thankfully Hitler is on Joe’s side, thinking that he is the loyal Jürgen Weyl. But in a way, isn’t he? Joe has immersed himself so fully into this character, out of necessity, out of a need to survive, but has he gone too far? Joe is already starting to lose himself and he must take care not to fall too far into the web of lies he has constructed and risk getting stuck. He has managed to infiltrate Hitler’s inner circle, but has their thinking infiltrated his mind?
Joe must travel across the country at the side of Hitler to the Wolf’s Lair, closer to the Russian front where Germany is now invading, and closer to danger and exposure. This is a precarious position for Joe as now he is living in close quarters with Hitler, acting as his left hand man. Having the most feared man in Germany, and arguably the world, on your side has its perks, but it also means Joe must constantly have his wits about him. Many times Joe has gotten himself into trouble, but will he be able to talk himself out of it again? Or will he trip up and jeopardise the mission, and his life? And this time it’s not only Joe’s life at stake, but the lives of his loved ones. Will Joe be able to perform with the weight of these lives on his shoulders? He must tread carefully, and not only because the camp is surrounded by a minefield.
This is another stunning book by Falkner and a great end to the Katipo Joe series. I commend him as he has managed to tie off the series really well, while still leaving a suitable amount of mystery and unknown. Some authors leave too much of a cliffhanger, but Falkner was able to give us a satisfactory amount of information while still leaving some stuff to fate. Through this book we see the characters continue to grow, and we, as readers, grow with them, learning more about the war effort and the sacrifices made by many.
Again we see the devastation of war, and the atrocities committed by Hitler and his inner circle to try and win the war. We are confronted with the grim reality of life during the Second World War, and we glimpse the fear felt by those on the other side of the German Reich. This is not, however, from the direct perspective of these people, but Joe, who must stand by and witness it all without being able to do anything. This in itself conveys a powerful statement, and in a way all of us can relate. Many people have witnessed the horror of what Hitler has done, not all of us first hand, and we can’t do anything. We are helpless, in our case, because it has already happened, but also for those who fought and gave their lives to try and stop Hitler. They succeeded but still millions died.
Through Joe we learn that even though we may not be able to make a direct impact and change things immediately, every tiny thing we do is a step toward the right direction. The soldiers who bravely gave their lives were the reason we were able to win the war, but spies like Joe also made a sacrifice. They constantly had the threat of torture or death hanging over them, and we can see this through Joe and his internal struggles. Even the wives and children who spent months, or even years without their husbands, fathers and sons, contributed to the effort to overthrow Hitler and put a stop to the horrendous crimes that were happening under his regime. All these people may have seemingly inconsequential roles, but as Joe says ‘We all may be specks of sand, but the sandstorm is coming”.
This book allows us to get a real insight into the mind of some of the most ruthless men in the world, but it also shows the readers their human side. This is such an important thing for us to understand, that even though they are viewed as awful human beings, responsible for the murder of millions, they are human. This in no way excuses what they did, but it makes us really consider that they were just normal people who made terrible decisions. This can make us reflect on ourselves, as we see that anyone has the potential to be good or bad. No one is born inherently good or evil, our choices determine that. We are the ones who decide our fate.
I love the messages in this and feel that you can learn a lot about the war through this book as much of it was based on true events. I thoroughly enjoyed Wolf’s Lair as much as the first two in the series, if not even more!
- Ashika is 15 and lives in Hastings.