Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler by Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager Weidenfeld & Nicolson, HK$104 Valkyrie is the memoir of the last surviving member of a conspiracy of German military officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler during the second world war. Unlike Hollywood's focus on the tense dramatic action of Operation Valkyrie - the group's July 20, 1944, plot to kill the Fuhrer with a bomb - Philipp von Boeselager's account is measured and unsensational. It follows the aristocrat and his elder brother Georg from their early life at a Catholic school during the post-first world war allied occupation of Germany, through Nazism's rise to power and on to the tragedies of the second world war, when they served as cavalry officers on the Russian Front. Their experiences fighting in Russia fostered seditious intent. Firstly, they saw Hitler's command as strategically incompetent. The Fuhrer constantly ignored the advice of his battle-experienced officers, instead forcing through orders that resulted in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of German troops. Secondly, they were repulsed by the barbarism of the SS, its genocidal persecution of Jews and gypsies and its brutal anti-partisan operations against the local population. In one case a delegation of Ukrainians who defected to the Germans was sent to meet Hitler; instead of welcoming the committed anti-Soviet fighters to the fold he had them shot. The author describes the barbarism that catalysed his commitment to kill Hitler as 'a complete disrespect for the rights of individuals, brutality in human relationships, savagery in the actions of everyday life and finally indifference to all the achievements in culture and comfort, to everything that centuries of labour and the progress of the human spirit have produced that is beautiful'. However, moving from the military world of unquestionably accepting orders to the realm of plotting the assassination was not an easy step. 'I had not become an officer in order to shoot the head of state in the head like a dog,' he writes. Beyond the famous bomb attempt to kill Hitler, the book reveals a number of other plots that either failed or were called off. Operation Valkyrie failed because the assassin, Claus von Stauffenberg, was limited by his physical impairments. Beyond his iconic eye-patch he had lost his right hand, and fingers from the left, which prevented him properly priming his two bombs. Only one went off, the Fuhrer lived and a witch-hunt for the conspirators began. Only a few survived. Despite his initial escape, Von Stauffenberg was captured and shot the next day. Numerous other officers were executed in the following purge. Major General Henning von Tresckow, the conspiracy's leader who had plotted against Hitler since 1939, shot himself to avoid betraying the plot's members. Despite serving as an important historical document and being engaging enough in its account of the conspiracy, Valkyrie has stylistic problems. It is packed full of passive prose and inverted sentences. Furthermore, the book is the result of 'long conversations' between Von Boeselager and translator/ghostwriter Florence Fehrenbach and suffers from the common ailments of personal accounts not written by their subjects. It lacks Von Boeselager's inner voice and reflections, resulting in a narrative where a broad history is dipped into but not explored in depth. Nevertheless, while the book is devoid of dramatic tension it serves as a snapshot into the little-known story of German military resistance to the Nazis' project, which would have been lost if Fehrenbach had not documented it before Von Boeselager's death last year.