The warships of the World War II era German Navy are among the most popular subject in naval history with an almost uncountable number of books devoted to them. However, for a concise but authoritative summary of the design history and careers of the major surface ships it is difficult to beat a series of six volumes written by Gerhard Koop and illustrated by Klaus-Peter Schmolke. Each contains an account of the development of a particular class, a detailed description of the ships, with full technical details, and an outline of their service, heavily illustrated with plans, battle maps and a substantial collection of photographs. These have been out of print for ten years or more and are now much sought after by enthusiasts and collectors, so this new modestly priced reprint of the series will be widely welcomed. The first volume, appropriately, is devoted to the Kriesmarine's largest and most powerful units, the battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz, whose careers stand in stark contrast to each other - one with a glorious but short life, while the other was to spend a hunted existence in Norwegian fjords, all the time posing a threat to Allied sea communications, while attacked by everything from midget submarines to heavy bombers.