This powerfully suspenseful new novel from Dan Fesperman takes us deep into the early 1940s in Switzerland and Germany as it traces the long reach of the wartime intrigues of the White Rose student movement, which dared to speak out against Hitler.
When Nat Turnbull, a history professor who specializes in the German resistance, gets the news that his estranged mentor, Gordon Wolfe, has been arrested for possession of stolen World War II archives, he's hardly surprised that, even at the age of eighty-four, Gordon has gotten himself in trouble. But what's in the archives is staggering: a spymaster's trove missing since the end of the war, one that Gordon has always claimed is full of "secrets you can't find anywhere else . . . live ammunition."
Yet key documents are still missing, and Nat believes Gordon has hidden them. The FBI agrees, and when Gordon is found dead in jail, the Bureau dispatches Nat to track down the material, which has also piqued the interest of several dangerous competitors. As he follows a trail of cryptic clues left behind by Gordon, assisted by an attractive academic with questionable motives, Nat's quest takes him to Bern and Berlin, where his path soon crosses that of Kurt Bauer, an aging German arms merchant still hoarding his own wartime secrets. As their stories--and Gordon's--intersect across half a century, long-buried exploits of deceit, devotion, and doomed resistance begin working their way to the surface. And as the stakes rise, so do the risks . . .
Four missing documents from WWII provide the fuel for Fesperman's fine stand-alone thriller. The FBI hires Nat Turnbull, a Nazi expert at a second-tier New England university, to find the documents, but Nat soon discovers that the agency has reasons other than historical integrity for wanting them found: to keep a lid on certain war-era sins committed by a German industrialist whose enormous company has been a major weapons supplier to the West. As Turnbull shuttles between Europe and the U.S., he manages to stay a step ahead of a mysterious killer who's knocking off anyone who may know something about the missing files. Fesperman (The Prisoner of Guant�namo) convincingly evokes the fraying Reich in 1944, a time of shifting allegiances when many Germans focused on positioning themselves for a Hitler-less future, though the who and why of all the recent killings remain somewhat murky. Still, readers who like a bit of history with their thrills will be thoroughly satisfied. (Aug.)
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August 02, 2009
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