The Stolen Ones by Vanessa Curtis (Usborne paperback, £6.99)

Set in 1950’s Munich, this tautly-plotted novel for teenagers introduces us to 16-year-old Inge, living at home, while also seeing a Jewish partner who she hides from her parents.

After a mysterious visitor and a series of letters arrive at the house, the veneer of ordinary life gives way and Inge begins to piece together the truth about her own background. Locked drawers, dark secrets, foreboding dreams and uncomfortable questions all combine well in this book of amateur detection where the stakes are very high and relationships are not as they first seem.

This is a well-paced story with cliff-hangers and twists, the author knowing when to keep the reader in suspense and when to provide impact and revelation. There is a nice feel for the domestic here, with plenty of kitchens, cakes and soups featured: food couldn't be taken for granted in this period. This all contrasts with the wider sweep of history which engulfs Inge and catches up with other characters in a most dramatic way.

Although there is genuine kindness to be found, particularly in devoted partner Wilf and his father, there is darkness too. The world is often shown to be a cruel place, both in the schoolyard and in a wider sphere. This book sheds an important light on the Lebensborn association (a barbaric Nazi programme aimed at breeding a master race of Aryan children) and its far-reaching consequences. It also poses many questions of its readers as to what they might do in circumstances similar to those described throughout. The narrative does not veer from Inge, a very relatable and sympathetic heroine, for whom “life is destined to be complicated” and the book is all the better for its tight focus. A future classic and an engaging read for age 13+ and adults.

Tim Curtis