15 July 2015

Book Review: Fox on the Rhine

Another OOP volume I managed to snag recently for the princely sum of 1 cent (plus 3.98 for postage!), this is a WW2 alternate history novel.  Well written by two wargamers, they have a style similar to other late 1990s military style novels by Larry Bond, Harold Coyle and Tom Clancy.  Warning; unlike most of my book reviews, this one has spoilers...

The book's point of departure is the famous July 1944 bomb plot - in this case von Stauffenberg's bomb is successful in killing Hitler, though the subsequent military coup is not successful in seizing control of Germany.  Instead, a counter coup executed by Himmler sees him installed as the new Fuhrer to control Germany and the SS, with a power sharing arrangement with the Wehrmacht who retain control of the military.  The immediate outcomes of this are the revocation of the wasteful 'stand and die' directives, and more effective allocation of resources to weapon systems development (such as the ME262).  Meanwhile, Rommel survives the much more lenient post assassination crackdowns and Commands all forces in the West after he recovers from injuries sustained in an allied strafing attack in July 44 (a real incident).

While there are many side stores and characters, the major plot line becomes Rommels' decision points in the aftermath of Normandy, which sees Southern France and the Falaise pocket evacuated and strong German defences established at the West Wall.  The key protagonists and the officer and men of the (fictional) US 19th Armoured Division which lead Patton's spearhead and are in the thick of the action throughout.  As this all happens, Himmler craftily establishes a truce with Stalin at the cost of providing V1 technology and ceeding Norway and Greece.  Everyone knows this is just temporary, but it gives the Third Reich the breathing space and additional manpower to face off the Western Allies at the Battle of the Bulge.

Overall, I found this a really engaging book with plausible consequences of a relatively minor point of departure.  Its weaknesses are a very US centric perspective - Monty gets a very minor look in, but its all Patton, Ike, Bradley and the boys of the 19th Armoured - and a lack of imaginative alternative German actions or operations.  The Pacific is mentioned but only in passing (the Philippines operation is cancelled to divert more assets to Europe after the Rusky ceasefire, MacArthur has a tantrum and gets fired, plus the Entrprise Carrier Group is diverted from the Pacific to Europe, gets jumped by a wolfpack and is sunk, killing Admiral Halsey) so it seems a real afterthought rather than an integrated  part of the changed political environment.  Nevertheless, I rate this book a solid 4 stars.

Stay tuned for my review of the sequel, Fox at the Front.



  1. I thought this was a fun read as well, a good wargamers' what-if. Monty's appearance was memorable. I've got a bad feeling that the sequel is sitting unread in my pile o' shame.