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Thriller set in Germany and Czech Republic (the Eighth Wonder of the World)

7th July 2013

The Amber Room by Steve Berry, thriller set in Germany and Czech Republic.

This is the story of the ‘eighth’ Wonder of the World, the looted Amber Room, in novel format.

0340920890.01.ZTZZZZZZThe actual Amber Room started life in the early 1700s in Prussia and the early workings were transferred to Russia in the middle of that century where they were embedded on the walls of a single room in the Catherine Palace, everntually covering 55 square meters of wall space; 6 tons of golden amber brought together in jigsaw fashion to create a stunning interior. Then towards the end of World War II, the interior was looted by the Nazis and brought to Königsberg, and it is at this point that knowledge of its fate comes to a sudden end. Many surmise that the panels and pieces that made up the room are buried in the tunnels in the Harz Mountains in Germany, tunnels created through mining for gold, lead, zinc and barium oxide. It is surmised that they didn’t get destroyed during the Allied bombings of Königsberg because the amber would have released a smell of incense as it burned – and there are no records of this, further fuelling the belief that the panels survived. But where are they now? What became of these myriad pieces of amber, that together could form one of the most stunning interiors imaginable? People still search for clues…

Steve Berry in his novel The Amber Room, (or in Russian, the room is apparently called Yantarnaya Komnata – we take it as read that this is the correct Russian, but see below; in German die Bernsteinkammer), picks up the trail with inventive skill.

A group of wealthy individuals quietly goes about the business of acquiring pieces of stolen artworks for themselves – their reasoning being that if the pieces are already stolen they will not be missed a second time. Two members of the ‘Club’ are Loring and Fellner, who both vie for the opportunity to acquire the Amber Room. Their stooges Christian Knoll and Suzanne Danzer battle it out across Europe. Enter two innocents in true adult Nancy Drew fashion, Rachel and Paul Cutler who come to the fray with little idea of what they are getting themselves into. But they gamely battle on and, despite hair-raising experiences which they take in their stride, they survive to the end.

This is a thriller that will transport you across Europe, from glorious castles to forested hillsides, as the action progresses, from the Harz Mountains in Germany across to Stod in The Czech Republic. It is informative about the origins of amber, and the various locales, with works of art credibly dotted about the text. It is fundamentally a decent, not too demanding read. However, Hodder is a well-known publishing house, so you would imagine they have editors and people to call on who can check the German and edit out mistakes – in our edition, the errors in the German came fast and furious at the beginning, and our motivation to push forward with the reading, in part, came from the entertainment of seeing how many more absurd mistakes might crop up. How do you spell Dolomites by the way? (certainly not as it appears in the book! 🙂 ) And how many châteaux are there in Italy? Probably more likely Palazzi… but anyway…

I was also amused at how the author had his main characters – who, don’t forget, are steely, sleek agents with weapons and combat know-how, together with an innocent couple of upright Americans – ‘trotting’ around or even ‘scampering’ about the place. To our mind the Hunchback of Notre Dame ‘scampers’ in his lugubrious way, poodles trot alongside their owners, baby monkeys scamper through the rainforest, so we were left with visual images that didn’t wholly fit with the racy action. Before we know it the author will have his agents gamboling and frollicking their way around the world….

And to end, as David Baldacci says: “As always with Steve Berry, you’re educated about significant things while your knuckles are turning white and the pages are flying by…”

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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