Enjoy millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more, with a free trial

Only $11.99/month after trial. Cancel anytime.

Ebook476 pages6 hours


Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars



Read preview

About this ebook

'Historical fiction of a high order' The Times
Germany, October 1944: Dozens of cities lie in ruins. Enemy armies are at the gates. For the Thousand Year Reich, time is running out.

Desperate to avoid the humiliation of unconditional surrender, German intelligence launch Operation Finisterre – a last-ditch plan to enable Hitler to deny the savage logic of a war on two fronts and bluff his way to the negotiating table.

Success depends on two individuals: Stefan Portisch, a German naval officer washed ashore on the coast of Spain after the loss of his U-boat, and Hector Gomez, an ex-FBI detective, planted by Director J. Edgar Hoover in the middle of the most secret place on earth: the American atomic bomb complex. Both men will find themselves fighting for survival as Operation Finisterre plays itself out.

Finisterre is part of the SPOILS OF WAR Collection, a thrilling, beguiling blend of fact and fiction born of some of the most tragic, suspenseful, and action-packed events of World War II. From the mind of highly acclaimed thriller author GRAHAM HURLEY, this blockbuster non-chronological collection allows the reader to explore Hurley's masterful storytelling in any order, with compelling recurring characters whose fragmented lives mirror the war that shattered the globe.
Release dateDec 1, 2016
Read preview

Graham Hurley

Graham Hurley is the author of the acclaimed Faraday and Winter crime novels and an award-winning TV documentary maker. Two of the critically lauded series have been shortlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Award for Best Crime Novel. His thriller Finisterre, set in 1944, was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. Follow Graham at grahamhurley.co.uk

Read more from Graham Hurley

Related to Finisterre

Related ebooks

Related articles

Reviews for Finisterre

Rating: 3.25 out of 5 stars

12 ratings3 reviews

What did you think?

Tap to rate

Review must be at least 10 words

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    It is September 1944: knowing that the war cannot be won, and desperate to avoid having to accept unconditional surrender, the German intelligence service launches Operation Finisterre in the hope of convincing the British and American governments to negotiate a peace deal with Hitler. The success of this mission is dependent on the actions of two men, who are involved in two apparently unconnected incidents. Twenty four year old Stefan Portisch, the experienced and well-decorated captain of a German U-boat, is charged with taking five SS men, along with their mysterious cargo, to Lisbon on a top-secret mission. However, when crossing the Bay of Biscay in a storm, his vessel sinks and the crew is forced to abandon ship. Badly injured, Stefan is washed ashore at a small fishing village on the coast of Spain and subsequently discovers that he is the only survivor. He is cared for by Eva, an activist during the Spanish Civil War, and soon falls in love with her. Disillusioned about continuing to fight for a cause which is both flawed and doomed, whilst he is recovering from his injuries he realises that he must make a decision about his future. However, when is betrayed to the Germans he discovers that achieving what he wants, a future with Eva, will depend on his cooperation with German intelligence agents in their plan to feed false information to the Allied Forces.On the other side of the Atlantic, Hector Gómez, an ex-FBI agent, now a counter-intelligence officer with the US Army and based at the American atomic bomb complex at Los Alamos, is investigating the apparent suicide of one of the scientists, a German Jew who had escaped to America before the war. Unconvinced by the evidence presented, his investigations finally lead Hector across the border into Mexico where, uncovering a complex espionage plot, he finds himself in grave danger. Along the way he meets Yolanda, a Spanish American woman who is fighting for civil rights in the USA, and, like Stefan, he too falls in love. The narrative switches every few pages as it tells the parallel stories of the two main characters. Initially I found theses frequent switches rather frustrating but, once I had adapted to the style, I found that this device helped to increase the dramatic tension in a very effective way. There is, of course, an assumption that the apparently disparate scenarios will eventually merge to make a coherent whole, but there were enough mysteries along the way to make it an interesting, and not too predictable, journey. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of life on a U-boat and thought that the author captured the atmosphere of camaraderie, trust and loyalty which develops between men forced to live in such an isolated, claustrophobic world – comparisons between the highly evocative descriptions in Das Boot and this book are well-deserved. Although much of the historical background was very familiar to me, I thought that the author used his research in a very effective way, blending fact and fiction in a way which felt convincing. I thought that the rivalry and power-games between the respective governments’ agencies, as well as between the countries involved, were very well-portrayed, adding an extra layer of confusion to the intricate negotiations needed in order to broker a face-saving peace treaty for the Germans. I found this an entertaining and engaging read but do have a couple of niggling criticisms. I thought that the romantic relationships were portrayed rather less successfully than other character-development, and that there were times when they distracted from the developing tension. I also found the ending to be rather rushed after the slow, but engagingly reflective build-up. This is the first book I have read by this author and, based on the overall quality of his writing, and his convincing plotting, I feel encouraged to try another of his novels.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    In September 1944, decorated German U-boat captain Stefan Portisch has been ordered to take five SS men to Lisbon on a top secret mission. While crossing the Bay of Biscay the submarine founders on rocks during a storm and the entire crew have to take their lives into their own hands by abandoning ship. Portisch is washed ashore and must make a decision. On the other side of the Atlantic, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Hector Gómez investigates the supposed suicide of a Jewish scientist working on America’s best-kept secret, the atom bomb. But Gómez is suspicious and doesn’t believe Sol Fiedler shot himself. His investigation takes him across the border into Mexico, where he makes a surprising discovery.I was sure after reading the synopsis that this book would prove to be a sure-fire hit but I thought it rather disappointing after the few rave reviews I’d read. The beginning aboard a German submarine is tense and atmospheric and brought to mind scenes of the German TV series (and film) Das Boot but for a book set at such a crucial turning point in the war the novel is surprisingly light on tension. The narrative alternates between Stefan Portisch, the U-boat captain turning his back on his country, and Hector Gómez, a counter-intelligence officer with the US Army, stationed at Los Alamos. The link between the two threads is revealed only very gradually and what is supposed to be a big reveal at the end falls curiously flat – considering the explosive subject material the plot rather fizzles out, in my opinion. There is no doubt that the author has researched the period extremely well, even placing a few historical figures into the narrative, and I can see this being turned into a successful film (but maybe with a different ending), but it didn’t grab me and the fate of each of the two principal characters left me quite cold. I’m wondering whether this is the result of the format, which jerks the reader from one man and place to the other, not allowing a rapport to develop. Certainly I query the author’s need to run both men’s lives in parallels to such a degree that fairly large sections of the book felt like padding, with romantic subplots added that only distract when more attention should have been paid to establishing a convincing, tense and nail-biting narrative.While this book can stand as a stand-alone novel, the author states on his website that there will be a “soft-linkage” between Finisterre and the two subsequent novels in the Wars Within series, with minor characters flitting in and out of the narrative as the plot demands. As yet I haven’t quite decided whether I will be on board again for the sequels.(This review was written for Amazon's Vine programme.)
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Extremely cleverly plotted story about Nazi attempts to broker a peace treaty once the allies took back France. For half the book the two parallel stories have no apparent link until suddenly the two pieces slot together seamlessly. Clearly very well researched with several real characters scattered within the plot. Highly recommended.

Book preview

Finisterre - Graham Hurley

Part One


On 19 September 1944, the day the French port city of Brest fell to the Allied armies, a German submarine was limping south across the Bay of Biscay. U-2553 had left Kiel nearly two weeks earlier, crossed the North Sea, rounded the Orkney Islands, then tracked south along the western edge of the minefields off the west coast of Scotland. A special voyage with a special significance, entrusted to one of the giants of the U-boat service.

Kapitän Stefan Portisch had been in submarines since the beginning of the war in 1939. He was tall, thin, blond, slightly stooped and looked much older than his twenty-four years. This was a new crew, the usual mix of seasoned veterans and young first-timers, but already Stefan had won their confidence.

They knew he’d had a hand in sinking hundreds of thousands of tons of enemy shipping. They admired the way he never boasted about the honours this combat record had brought him. And by watching him at the closest possible proximity, they sensed that command – the ability to coax the best out of men under conditions of extreme difficulty – was something he’d learned the hard way. In the game of war, as one of the veterans had put it, Kapitän Stefan Portisch was a lucky card to tuck in your pocket.

Stefan’s latest promotion had taken him to one of the new Elektro boats, equipped with a Schnorkel to recharge the batteries without having to surface. Underwater, it could sustain five knots for sixty hours on a single charge. It was bigger than the old workhorse, the Type VII, which gave the crew extra room for a shower and even a freezer for fresh food. So far, so good. But this was the first time since the war began that Stefan Portisch had sailed without torpedoes.

Only one of the five strangers who’d joined the boat an hour before sailing had deigned to introduce himself. This was a thin, mirthless SS Brigadeführer. According to the orders from Berlin lodged with Kapitän Portisch, his name was Johann Huber. He had the senior SS look: dead eyes and an icy disdain for the small courtesies of life at sea. He was clearly on board to safeguard the other four passengers, and the pile of wooden crates so carefully stored for’ard in the torpedo compartment. So far, like them, he’d shown no interest in conversation or even the odd game of chess. This little group took their meals apart, raiding their kitbags for bottles of Gewürztraminer and tins of foie gras doubtless acquired from some Party hoard in Berlin.

The voyage was not going well. Stefan sensed at once that his crew resented the presence of these strangers. Above and below the waves, seamen were deeply superstitious. They had to rely on each other with a degree of trust more absolute than most marriages. These interlopers in their borrowed fatigues and fancy food had brought with them a strong whiff of the decay and corruption that seemed to be eating at the heart of the Fatherland. Somehow, they’d acquired a passage out of the ruined Heimat. Money? Power? Influence? No one knew. Except that U-2553 was heading for Lisbon. And from Lisbon these men could be in South America in no time at all.

Two days into the voyage, Stefan’s second-in-command, a taciturn Oberleutnant from Bremerhaven three years older than himself, had put it best of all. These people are rats, he said. They’re abandoning the Reich. They’re spreading disease. They’re a health hazard. They have no place here.

Stefan made his way to the tiny cubby hole where he marked up his charts. With five extra bodies aboard, space was precious. True, these new boats had slightly bigger latrines but one of them was now crammed with the personal luggage these people were taking with them. Back in Kiel, Stefan had watched the heavy suitcases passing from hand to hand. The latrine full, Huber had told Stefan to lock it. Then he demanded the key and slipped it into his pocket. My boat, those eyes were saying. My rules. My voyage.

Stefan was as curious as the rest of the crew to know what was inside those suitcases, and why the wooden crates in the torpedo compartment were so important, but just now his finger was tracing the pencilled line that tracked the progress of U-2553 across the Bay of Biscay. A little over an hour ago they’d been five miles due north of Finisterre, the topmost corner of Spain jutting out into the Atlantic. Eight days earlier, hugging the continental shelf off the west coast of Ireland, they’d been located by an enemy destroyer and depth-charged.

The attack had lasted more than an hour, the crew at action stations braced for yet another volley of explosions as the thrum-thrum of the approaching destroyer grew and grew until you could taste nothing but fear in the dryness of your mouth. No matter how long you’d served, these terrifying moments tested the strongest nerves.

The strangers from Kiel had gathered in the clutter of the for’ard sleeping compartment, their faces already the colour of death in the dim light. After the first attack, all five of them had struggled into the standard-issue life jackets. As the jaws of yet another blast closed around the hull, Stefan watched them trying to steady themselves. The boat bucked and groaned. Lights flickered and died. Steam blew from ruptured valves. Then, at last, the attack was over. The destroyer had either run out of depth charges or simply lost interest.

Minutes later, the Chief Engineer had reported serious damage to the port prop shaft. He said his men were doing their best to effect repairs but he wasn’t optimistic. With Lisbon more than a thousand miles away, U-2553 was down to just three knots.

Since then it had got worse. Everyone knew these new war-winning subs were shit. They’d been thrown together from huge prefabricated sections. Back home, with the shipyards short of proper expertise, much of the work had been done by forced labour from POWs and concentration camps. Berlin still boasted about war-winning technology and record-breaking construction times but the new Elektro boats were plagued by faults. Of the eight so far launched, just two had made it into active service.

Stefan had met a fellow Kapitän from one of these crews in Lorient. He’d just returned from a lone-wolf bid to ambush a huge Allied convoy inbound from North America. Everyone aboard knew that the assignment was suicidal – too many escorts, too many aircraft – but a failure in the main propulsion unit only hours out from Lorient had spared them an ugly death. Thank God for lousy engineering, the Kapitän had muttered. So much for the wonder boat.

A shadow fell over the chart. It was the Chief Engineer with more bad news. In a whispered conversation, he told Stefan that the drive-coupling in the starboard prop shaft had developed a problem. Worse still, an intermittent malfunction with the float that protected the Schnorkel was threatening to get worse.

Stefan raised an eyebrow. The Schnorkel was a mast-like tube that slid up from the conning tower and sucked in fresh air to feed the diesel engines. For some reason the float at the mouth of the tube was getting stuck, cutting off the air supply. Without fresh air, the diesels wouldn’t work, and without the diesels there was no way of recharging the batteries without surfacing.

‘You want us to surface?’

‘Yes, sir. And I’ll have to close down the prop shaft before we can make any kind of repair.’

Stefan’s eye had returned to the chart. On the surface, the diesels could recharge the batteries without turning the prop shaft. Already up top it was twilight. This close to the shore of a neutral country, the only real danger would be the odd fishing boat. Stefan glanced up at the engineer.

‘How much time will you need?’

‘Hard to say. Two hours? Three? Depends.’

Stefan nodded. The most recent weather forecast had warned of an approaching storm. Winds from the north-west gusting at eighty knots. Waves cresting at twenty metres. At normal cruise depth, the boat was immune from bad weather but the need to recharge the batteries through the Schnorkel had taken them to within touching distance of the surface. Already he could hear the hull beginning to groan as the boat wallowed along. Offering themselves to a storm of this magnitude would be suicidal.

‘You think we have a choice?’

‘No, sir.’ The engineer’s eyes had strayed to the chart. ‘We could lose the prop shaft completely. This close in, no engines, no power, no steerage way, would you really want that?’

Stefan gazed at him a moment. The law of diminishing options, he thought. This whole bloody war captured in a single question. Robbed of choice, he mustered a tired shrug.

‘Fine,’ he said. ‘Then we surface.’


Los Alamos is in New Mexico. The same morning found Hector Gómez sitting at his desk on the sprawling site the Americans dubbed the Hill. Gómez was a huge man, Hispanic in girth, Mexican by origin, impressively ugly. He’d joined US Army Intelligence after years of front-line service with the FBI and just now he was contemplating a drive to Santa Fe when his phone rang. It was a glorious morning up here on the mesa and after a leisurely breakfast in the commissary, Gómez had dropped into his office in the Admin Building to check on his mail before heading out. He hadn’t had a day off in weeks.

‘Gómez.’ He bent to the phone.

For a moment, he couldn’t place the woman’s voice. Foreign. German, maybe. Or one of those fussy, neurotic Hungarian women who seem standard issue if you happen to be a refugee genius in the field of nuclear physics. Either way, the lady at the end of the phone was seriously distressed.

‘It’s my husband,’ she kept saying. ‘Sol.’


‘He’s here. I’m looking at him. He’s shot dead.’

Dead? You’re serious?’

Ja. There’s blood everywhere. Please come. Please help.’

Gómez reached for a chair and settled behind the desk. He’d recalled the name at last. Sol Fiedler. Nice old man with thinning grey hair and a lovely smile, probably chasing fifty. Checking his watch, Gómez dallied briefly with passing the call on to the colleague who was supposed to be covering for him but then had second thoughts. Nothing seriously interesting had come his way for months. Just the endless daily chore of security checks and queries from the mail censor that fell to Army Intelligence. Santa Fe could wait.

‘I’m there,’ he said. ‘Don’t touch a thing.’

Marta Fiedler lived on the bottom floor of one of the Morgan two-storey duplexes on the outer fringes of the sprawling complex. Her front door was open and Gómez could hear the blare of a radio.

He stepped into the apartment from the blaze of sunshine and for a moment his world went inky black. He was wearing a light windcheater over his regulation shirt and tie and he drew his gun. In his FBI days he’d lost count of fellow agents maimed or worse for stepping into an ambush.

He called Mrs Fiedler’s name, heard nothing. He tried again and finally stirred a response, a small animal wail of acute distress. Making his way to one of the bedrooms at the back of the apartment, he found her curled beside her husband.

Sol Fiedler’s body lay diagonally across the bed. The embroidered counterpane was the colour of curd cheese except where blood and gobbets of brain had exploded through the side of his skull. His eyes were open, the lightest blue. Beside his outstretched hand was an Army-issue Browning automatic and the acrid stench of a recently expended shell hung in the chill of the air-conditioning.

Gómez reached down. Fiedler’s body was still warm but there was no sign of a pulse. The neatness of the entry wound was circled with powder burns and Gómez cursed himself for having left his camera in the office. He’d drive back to fetch it when he was through here but first he needed to know a great deal more.

Marta stared up at him. She and Gómez had met a couple of times before on cookouts and other social events. On the last occasion, less than a month ago, they’d talked about a bunch of ancient Indian ruins in the Bandelier National Monument, a favourite destination for weekend excursions among the Hill-folk. He remembered her telling him how hard it was to prise Sol away from his work. The Gadget, she’d said, ha