Sandra Grey’s third volume in her World War II trilogy is another winner. It is as sweeping as the windswept Russian landscape where the story is set. Trespass picks up the story of Hans Brenner, a German soldier, who strikes a bargain with American intelligence and Natalie Allred, an American Army nurse, who are making plans to go to America to be married. It is 1946 and those plans are shattered when Lieutenant Viktor Rostov of the Soviet MGB is forced to deliver Hans to the Soviets or see his daughter, Lucya sentenced to a Siberian death camp. Complicating matters further is the uncertainty of whether Natalie was born in Russia or America and her resemblance to Rostov’s dead wife. Complicating matters further is Rostov’s determination to make her love him.
Natalie is helpless to protect herself or determine her own life when Rostov produces evidence that her mother was Russian, making Natalie subject to the Yalta agreement that forced the repatriation of all former Soviet citizens. Forcibly dragged from her cousin’s apartment house in Paris, she begins a nightmare journey into Bolshevik Russia with Rostov. She is forced to sign documents she can’t read and is lodged in a tiny apartment shared with people she can’t communicate with. Rostov assigns a Soviet woman, Regina, to accompany her everywhere and both women are nurses at a Russian hospital. Regina becomes her only friend, but pressure exerted against her tears at their friendship and places them and their loved ones in precarious positions. Natalie is also told Hans is dead.
Hans resists capture by the Russians and is shot. He survives, but learns he must help the Soviets build a bomb or Lucya will be killed. He is given no information concerning his fiancé and doesn’t know whether she is safe in America or dead. He struggles to keep his agreement with the Americans and remain alive.
Rostov has enemies too, who are determined to get him out of the way and destroy him through either Natalie or Lucya. Seventeen-year-old Lucya struggles with the cruelty of her guards and the forced labor she is subjected to. Through it all, she tries to keep her faith in her papa and in the country she has been trained to serve with mindless devotion. A young guard who isn’t quite like the other guards, arrives with three horses which he is training to a troika, a sled pulled by three horses hitched together. He pays particular attention to her and she fears he means to make her his “camp wife” though time spent with him is her only respite from her harsh living conditions.
Neither the Americans nor the British can maintain communication with agents inside Russia and must trust all plans are going ahead as outlined. Corruption is rampant and old suspicions and grudges are not easily released. Vast distances, revenge, and hunger for power complicate matters.
Grey writes with a distinctive, authoritative voice that lends a greater degree of maturity to her writing than is often seen in LDS suspense novels. Her research is impeccable and verifiable, giving her hard-hitting novels a strong note of authenticity. Her characters are well-drawn with strong positive characteristics, but believable flaws and weaknesses as well. Particularly Rostov tugs at the reader’s senses because he is both a vicious antagonist and yet finds himself in a position where he must make terrible choices and cruel decisions in order to save lives. Though a first rate villain, there is also something heroic about him.
Another area where Grey excels is in describing the setting in such a way that it doesn’t distract from the story, but is very much part of the story, as only such a vast, bleak landscape can be. The weather that dictates so much of Russian life plays its own bitter role, leaving the reader ever cognizant of the sub-zero temperatures and blizzards that sweep across the northern landscape. The lingering superstitions and religious beliefs–not quite stamped out by the Stalinists, official corruption, survivalist blackmarkets and theft tactics create a quagmire of uncertainty the characters must make their way through. This three-book series is a favorite of both men and women.
Sandra is part of a large two generation military family. Much of her background information comes from her father, who is a retired Air Force major. He was involved in cold war activities following World War II. She received the Best Novel of the Year award at the 2008 Whitney Awards for her first book, Traitor.
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TRESPASS by Sandra Grey, published by Covenant Communications, softcover, 357 pages plus chapter notes, $17.99