I thoroughly enjoyed The Alice Network and was very excited to hear Kate Quinn was releasing a new novel, The Huntress, this year. Quinn focuses again on WWII and its aftermath using various points of view resulting in a complex, layered narrative.
Nina’s story is primarily set during the years Russian was engaged in battle with World War II. After growing up by the Old Man, an affectionate name from the Siberian lake outside her home, with an abusive father who openly denounces Stalin, Nina Markova runs away from home to become a pilot. While initially rejected for war she eventually becomes a navigator in the all female night bomber regimen the German’s dub The Night Witches for their stealthy attacks.
Jordan McBride is an aspiring photographer who lives with her widowed father in Boston. Mr McBride owns an antique shop where he meets an Austrian woman selling the last mementos from her deceased husband as a way to make ends meet in America.
In 1946 Anneliese Weber and her daughter, Ruth, go to dinner at Dan McBride’s house as a means of introduction between his betrothed and his daughter. While Jordan is instantly besotted by her future step-sister she is initially wary of the woman who will be her new mother. Things come to a head during their first Thanksgiving but eventually the family falls into a comfortable rhythm and Jordan’s fears subside. For a time.
Jordan stood back, hands on her hips, staring at it. “Objectively,” she said aloud, “this is one of the best shots you’ve ever taken.” The click of the Leica had captured Anneliese as she stood framed by the arch of the kitchen window, half toward the camera for once rather than away from it, the contrast between her dark hair and pale face beautifully rendered. But…
“Subjectively,” Jordan continued, “that shot is Goddamn spooky.”
We are introduced to former war correspondent Ian Graham and his translator, Tony, in 1950 in Germany where they run a small office tasked with tracking down war criminals. Ian’s white whale is a German woman known as Die Jägerin or The Huntress who murdered six Polish children towards the end of the war along with Ian’s younger brother before vanishing from Europe entirely. You find out rather quickly that Nina was with Ian’s brother shortly before he was murdered and she is the only living witness to the atrocities The Huntress committed as well as the only person able to identify her face. Ian, Nina and Tony team up to find the Die Jägerin and have her answer to her crimes once and for all.
Moments like this should have been glorious, and they never were. The monsters always looked so ordinary and pathetic, in the flesh.
Naturally all three main characters story lines merge together to create a cohesive, enthralling novel. The twists and turns are relatively easy to see coming but the strength of the writing elevates the whole narrative.