The Alphabet House, told in two parts, opens with James Teasdale and Bryan Young, two British pilots on a reconnaissance mission over Germany during WWII. When their plane is shot down and they crash in enemy territory they must do what is necessary to survive. While being pursued by German soldiers, James and Bryan manage to escape aboard a train carrying wounded SS officers, taking the place of two patients they have thrown off the train, hoping to have a chance to escape at some later time. Upon their arrival at the Alphabet House, a mental institution, they must continue their charade, all the while being subjected to horrifying and atrocious experimental procedures and therapies.
The second part, occurring some 30 years later, brings us face to face with Bryan Young again and his quest to find his friend and fellow Alphabet House patient, James. However, things are not as they seem and soon Bryan is involved in a mystery, involving some unexpected characters from his past.
This was my first taste of a Jussi Adler-Olsen mystery/thriller and I must say it was a difficult read for me. Rich in detail of the time, The Alphabet House is a well researched book giving wonderful insight into the appalling conditions for patients in mental institutions at the time. However, as insightful as that can be, and in general lends well to plot and character development, the details are what dragged the story down for me. Having started it, I found myself at times even avoiding it, reading other books and not wanting to really go back to it. I just couldn’t find any sympathy for any of the characters, all of them flat, two dimensional and unappealing.
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group (Dutton Adult) for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.