Felix Breit was a noted sculptor in the 1930s but, as a "quarter-Jew" in the Nazi stereotype, he was arrested in Paris in 1942. The Gestapo always intended to release him - after the scandal had filled the papers and distracted the public from other mass arrests. But Felix went on the run until re-arrested and sent to Mauthausen death camp. There he was put on a dietary experiment that enabled him to survive, although he had severe TB by liberation day, when he was carried out on a stretcher. Two visiting British officers on a courtesy visit to the US sector recognise him and one pins his card offering help to Felix's unconscious body.
The story opens several months later with Felix visiting London in search of those officers - Adam Wilson and Tony Palmer - two architects who have just rented a 60-room Georgian mansion in Hertfordshire, where they hope to create a new kind of community. They offer Felix the old coachhouse and he becomes the first member of the new community after the two founders. Adam is married to Sally, a fellow architect who designed modern army barracks and reached acting-brigadier rank in the war. Tony's wife is Nicole, a two-star Michelin chef who fought in the French resistance, playing double-bluff with the Nazis. The two founders also invite Willard Johnson to join - he was their American host on the day Mauthausen was liberated. His wife is Marianne von Ritter, daughter of a Nazi-loving Swedish steel baron who wangled her a position in the office of Rudolf Speer, Hitler's favourite architect, during the war. Willard is the sort of architect who is going to revolutionise London's skyline.
Felix soon meets Faith Bullen-ffitch, rebellious daughter of landed gentry in the Cotswolds who is now the indispensable right-hand woman to Wolf Fogel - a prewar Jewish refugee from Vienna and now a small-time London publisher with big dreams. She involves him in a major project they are just about to begin; and she also moves in with him at the Dower House. But it's clear that Felix is much more interested in Angela Worth, an enigmatic woman who is clearly something important at the BBC, judging by the way her male colleagues treat her when their paths cross at Schmid''s Restaurant in Fitzrovia. He befriends her and learns that she, too, spent years in a camp - Ravensbrueck, the Nazi death camp for women. Her back story is complex.
Her mother died when she was 13. Her father was a pioneer recording technician at the UFA film studios and she used to join him there after school. The deputy director of the SS, Reinhard Heidrich, was also a fairly good violinist and used to ask her father to record them. One day - and ever after - Angela stood in ... and became his favourite recordist. He even chose her to secretly record the notorious Wannsee Conference in January 1942, at which the SS announced to all other departments of government that they now had the ability to annihilate all Jews, Romanies, and Gays in areas under Nazi rule.
Shocked, Angela made two transcripts. She never confessed to it but the Nazis threw her into a death camp anyway. The fate of those transcripts plays a large part in unrolling the story.
Other members of the community are Eric and Isabella Brandon; he had a mysterious part in Army Intelligence but now writes and illustrates children's books - an arch cynic with an unflappable wit; she is an editor on Vogue. There's also Chris Riley-Potter, an artist with a string of beautiful girls and unsuitable friends. And Denis and Cynegonde deVoors, the grit in the Dower House oyster.
The story takes us to: Gothenburg in Sweden, Hamburg and the Baltic Coast in Germany, Paris and the Camargue in France, Manhattan and New Jersey in the USA, Florence and Fiesole in Italy, and Istanbul in Turkey. Even within England there is action in many different parts of London (of course) as well as in Cornwall, Glocestershire,Yorkshire, and