Saturday, April 11, 2015

Book Review: A Chance Kill by Paul Letters

A Chance Kill is a wartime thriller where an old-fashioned love story forges through a conspiracy of authentic, action-filled adventures.

Based upon the author’s grandmother’s experience, seventeen-year-old Polish catholic Dyta Zając finds herself forced away from wartime Warsaw due to her family’s shadowy connections. Dyta’s time on the run sets her on a path towards confronting the ultimate Nazi.

Half a continent away, an RAF bomber crew embarks upon Britain’s little-known first offensive of the war. Courtship edges Dyta’s destiny closer to that of members of the RAF crew – and toward the Allies’ most brazen covert operation to strike at the Nazi elite.

But more dangerous than the enemy, however, is the assumption that your enemy’s enemy is your friend…



Much has been written about WWII.  I would hazard a guess that most of it is non-fiction: the pros and cons of various weaponry, the alliances, the Holocaust, the famous battles.  Some of it is pure fiction.  Lastly, some of the literature is fiction, but based at least in part, on real experiences.

Such a novel is Paul Letters' A Chance Kill.  The title refers to something said by Dyta's father that she overhead before she left Poland - about how a person would get 'his chance to kill' in the course of the Nazi's invasion of Poland.

A Chance Kill is heavy enough in technical terms of ware that I believe even historians who don't normally go for fiction would enjoy this book.  At the same time, the research is not so overwhelming that it chokes out the story, and people who prefer fiction, especially historical fiction, can have a ripping good read.

The soldiers are not just killing machines.  They are sons, fathers, lovers, braggarts, musicians and a host of other things.  The peoples living in lands that were attacked by the Nazis were not just Poles, Czechs, French, Austrian, English;  they were not just victims.  They were also members of families, doctors, artists, merchants, resistance fighters.  Mr. Letters brought this out brilliantly in his book.

I was confused once or twice, but I'm putting that up to the kind of week I had while I was reading the book.  On the German raid at the RAF airfield, I had thought that YVON had been destroyed and then a few chapters later, Tom and Johnny were up flying her on that unfortunate mission.  And while it seems Tom was still alive, it's a bit maddening to not know if he and Dyta ever saw each other again.

That is a scene I would both look forward to reading and dread at the same time.  "Oh, Tom, about your brother..."  As Charles Dickens once wrote, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...."  Letters is true to that sentiment in A Chance Kill, making it one of my favorite books set in the WWII era.



Author Paul Letters deals with a physical disability (which is twisted and transposed to a character in A Chance Kill). It prompted Paul to change his life and give up full-time teaching to write. He studied history, education, international affairs and literary journalism at the Universities of Cardiff, Oxford and Hong Kong.

Paul is from England and now lives in the jungled fringes of Hong Kong. He writes freelance journalism, most often for the South China Morning Post, and is currently working on a World War Two novel set in Hong Kong.

For more information please visit Paul Letters’ website. You can also find him on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. Follow the WWII 75 Years On Twitter page for daily tweets on what happened in history 75 years ago.


Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.  You can visit their site to apply to be one of their reviewers too!

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