Before we begin, I should state that this novel would have rated 5**, except for the fact that the first half was slow, although probably necessary to establish the foundation for the rest of the book. Written by the Danish author of the delightful and amusing Department Q series, it is a standalone psychological study of two men who grew up boyhood friends and served in the RAF during World War II. The book takes place toward the end of the conflict and the years following that end.
In a bombing mission over Nazi Germany, the two were forced to parachute when their plane was hit, and they evaded capture by jumping on a hospital train filled with patients from the eastern front. They tossed two victims off the train and assumed their identities, ending up as mental patients at a facility giving the book its title and undergoing treatment for their supposed maladies, including electric shock. Eventually one escapes, the other remaining there for 30 years until his friend attempts to find him and bring him back to England.
It is this latter section which is absorbing, although the details of the treatments in the Alphabet House are equally fascinating. The author finally arrives at a point where his purpose surfaces: the question of whether friendship can survive despite the hardships and experiences suffered. It is this part of the novel which would have earned it a higher rating, except for the slogging necessary to get from there to here. Still, the book is highly recommended....Continua