Thriller writer Karen Millie-James is back with her latest Cydney Granger release. WHERE IN THE DARK is the second in the series. This time, protagonist Cydney goes after Nazi plunder and the shadowy figures that conspire to conceal and profit from it.
Congratulations on your latest release WHERE IN THE DARK. Can you tease us with an elevator pitch?
The book starts with two holocaust survivors each receiving in the post a bearer bond for $1m each, completely out of the blue. They have no idea why or from where but it strikes fear in their hearts because they have been keeping a secret since 1945. On the other side of the Atlantic, in West Virginia, an escaped Nazi officer called Albert Whiteman, formerly Adolf Weissmuller, heads the family bank into which he married. His son is Governor and about to run in the primaries for president. However, the bank is founded on gold looted by Weissmuller from the Jewish people of Europe. Now he starts to feel remorse, or is he just afraid of dying and what awaits him? Cydney Granger is called upon to investigate and what she discovers is a web of deceit and lies which could ultimately bring down the entire banking system.
Nazi loot features prominently in the news—a buried train, heated litigation—and more contentiously, the moral tension between treasure hunters versus familial claimants seeking social justice. What personally drew you to this issue and what side do your characters favor?
My father came out of Germany with the kindertransport in 1939. From the end of the war until 1962 he spent his time seeking recompense for what his family had lost and finally he received the paltry sum of £1300 approximately. For the last twenty years my family and I have been engaged with the courts of Frankfurt and Munich to discover what happened to all my grandparents’ assets and again, seek suitable recompense. This has also involved the courts in New York and it will probably never happen because the courts have done everything in their power to delay matters and not make a judgment.
My two holocaust survivors seek no recompense for what they lost. They have no interest because they came to England to make a new life and want no involvement with Germany, nor do they wish to talk about what went on; it is enough that they went through the trauma and survived. However, they are forced to face their demons, and specifically Weissmuller.
Yes, the question of discovering Nazi loot is in the news but these treasure hunters have no desire to recompense the people who lost everything, nor do they desire to repatriate the art, gold, diamonds and other treasures. Their goal is to find the monies and become rich. Again, the same desires as the Nazis which was to take what they believed was rightfully theirs from the Jewish people who were amongst the richest in the country and held the highest positions – doctors, bankers, lawyers, professors, musicians. If they were doing this for altruistic reasons, I would applaud them, but this is blood money and should be left alone.
DARK’s protagonist Cydney Granger is a corporate forensic investigator. Does her expertise in any way herald from your work background, or was she born from tough, dedicated research?
I have an international corporate consultancy which specialises in advising companies and individuals around the world how to run their businesses, and I sit on the boards of many companies in an advisory capacity. Cydney is a fictitious character but some of the aspects of her work and mine run parallel, which is why I find her and the work she does easy to write about. The research aspect did not encompass her, but purely the world around her and specifically, in Where In The Dark, focused around the banking world and how the gold moved from Germany and other occupied countries via Switzerland and possibly to many countries’ federal reserves.
Cydney’s investigation is furthered with help from “beyond the grave.” Is there a paranormal element to DARK, or is Cydney’s ‘help’ the result of hard-nosed evidence gathering?
There is a paranormal aspect to Cydney’s investigations because she has a special gift; she can talk to people who have passed into the spirit world. This assists her in her investigations and how amazing would that be to understand and know what the person sitting opposite you in a meeting is thinking, even to the point of wanting to commit murder. This gift has helped her specifically in her quest for the truth in relation to the two survivors because she is drawn back into their time as children, going in the trains to Lodz Ghetto, then in the concentration camps and finally to their journey to England. This makes her life much easier. However, she is forced to relive what they went through and this is one of the hardest things she has ever had to face. Obviously, some of her research is purely down to fact-finding and looking through records also, something we all have to do.
The impacts of Nazi Germany continue to be felt. How does DARK deal with history’s long shadow, and what can readers take away with them after the book is closed?
I think ultimately Where In The Dark is a positive story of survival against the toughest odds and bears truth to the adage that it is amazing what a human-being can suffer at the hands of another and still come out the other side with strength. I wanted to ensure that this was the message and I did that by using Adolf Weissmuller, exploring his clearly psychopathic mind and wanting him to feel remorse for his crimes against humanity. In some ways I gave him a voice, but this was purely to demonstrate his evil and lack of empathy against the people he had murdered. My conclusions were that he was never going to feel sorry, but ultimately he was scared of dying and the fate that awaited him.
Whilst there are survivors of the atrocities of the Holocaust still alive, the entire impact of what happened in Germany during the war, will continue to be kept alive, as it should be, to ensure that such things never happen again. Unfortunately, countries do not learn from their mistakes and atrocities are happening all over the world against innocent people.
A MYSTERY OUT OF THE PAST…
Two envelopes. Two holocaust survivors. Two anonymous bearer bonds each worth one million pounds. Corporate forensic investigator, Cydney Granger, with help from beyond the grave, enters a world previously unknown to her to unravel the truth behind a web of secrets, lies, corruption, blackmail and hidden Nazi loot as new horrors of the Third Reich come to light.
Still struggling to come to terms with the apparent death of her husband, Captain Steve Granger, five years’ earlier Cydney puts her personal feelings to one side and is determined to bring to justice
an escaped Nazi criminal, Adolf Weissmuller, living under the assumed name of Albert Whiteman, whose son is about to run for the US presidency. Can Albert ever make amends for his crimes against
humanity, or are some actions beyond forgiveness …?
Will Cydney, along with her trusted and tough protector, former sergeant, Sean O’Connell, also uncover the truth surrounding her husband?
The consequences of Cydney’s investigations, stretching back before WWII, are far reaching with the potential to bring down a banking dynasty as she faces insurmountable odds from which there is only one final solution.
The dramatic follow-up to The Shadows Behind Her Smile, a compelling debut which takes the reader from the heart of Cydney’s corporate world to the ruins of war-torn Damascus and where men will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
It was the shock. As he fell, the pain ripped across his heart and he felt the familiar vice-like tightening of his chest as the muscles attempted to respond to the restricted blood flow, his arteries already hardened and narrowed. An overwhelming sense of anxiety enveloped him. Harold reached into his inside jacket pocket and grabbed the pump spray he kept with him at all times containing the medicine he now urgently needed to relieve his symptoms. He opened his mouth and pressed the bottom of the pump firmly and placed a couple of squirts under his tongue; he had always hated the taste. The relief was immediate and as the pain eased he felt the onset of the pounding headache the spray always gave him. Slowly, he managed to pull himself up into a sitting position so he could examine the cause of his attack.
The knowledge that in his hands he held a bearer bond certificate for one million dollars made Harold’s hand tremble to such an extent that he dropped the bond and the envelope in which it had arrived and saw it flutter and disappear under one of the Queen Anne chairs in his living room. It was with some considerable effort that he stretched out his arm and rescued the document with the tip of his middle finger, despite the arthritis that also beleaguered him. He straightened up and mopped his brow with the back of his hand to remove the sweat that had accumulated, unsure if it was the shock that had brought it on, or the strain at his age that it had taken to retrieve it.
Still sitting on the floor, nervous to stand in case the pain returned, he examined the document in more detail, turned it over to check both sides and wiped away the film of dust from its fall. It was printed on thick cream quarto size parchment with a picture of Abraham Lincoln on the front in dark grey, and a red inscribed serial number to the right-hand side. The words ‘Bearer Bond to the Value of One Million Dollars’ were centred in large black letters. An utter sense of dread filled his entire being. It made no sense, unless …
Eventually, Harold got to his feet and waited for his world to stop spiralling down in front of him. He felt nothing but doom. The eyes of his parents and sisters framed within the sepia photo on his desk, taken before everything had overturned their lives, stared back at him, almost willing him to remember. As if he were capable of ever forgetting.
His fingers shook as he ran them along the gold trim edges of the bond and stroked the red seal and ribbon at the bottom. Further review of the envelope, including peering inside it in case there was a letter, revealed nothing further to assist him, not even after he had turned it upside down and shaken it to double check. It bore an airmail sticker and US postage stamp, and his name and address were typed on it, however, there were no clues as to who had sent it or why it had been sent to him. It certainly appeared genuine but the question that came to mind was whether someone was playing a joke on him. The bond was drawn on an American bank, the name of which meant nothing.
Not only did he feel completely bewildered, but absolutely frightened. He really needed to sit again before he passed out. He had no idea what to do so he called the person he always turned to when he had a problem. The phone was answered immediately.
“Alfie, it’s me. Harold. I have to see you.”
“I have to see you, too.”
“You got the same envelope.” It wasn’t a question, simply a statement, spoken in the same quiet tone that Harold was accustomed to hearing.
“That’s impossible. How could you have got a million dollars, too? Where did it come from?”
“You’d better come over to me. Is the notebook in a safe place?”
“Of course it is. It’s not something I would ever lose, though heaven knows I’ve thought about destroying it so many times.”
“It’s all we have, Harold. It’s our security.”
“Do you think it could be …?” He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “Has he found us, despite all we’ve done?”
“I don’t know. I’ve phoned Rupert. We need his advice now.”
“We never told him, you know that. We’ve held this secret for so long. Can we trust him?”
“What choice do we have, my friend?”
PR – Karen is represented by Midas PR in London
For further information on Karen Millie-James, The Shadows Behind Her Smile, Where In The Dark, or King of the Road Publishing, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8236 8507
Thank you so much for joining us today, Karen. Best of luck with the release! — A.B.