In the most ingenious and provocative thriller yet from the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, a conscience-plagued mobster turned government hitman struggles to find his moral compass amid rampant treachery and betrayal in 1936 Berlin.
Paul Schumann, a German American living in New York City in 1936, is a mobster hitman known as much for his brilliant tactics as for taking only "righteous" assignments. But then Paul gets caught. And the arresting officer offers him a stark choice: prison or covert government service. Paul is asked to pose as a journalist covering the summer Olympics taking place in Berlin. He's to hunt down and kill Reinhard Ernst -- the ruthless architect of Hitler's clandestine rearmament. If successful, Paul will be pardoned and given the financial means to go legit; if he refuses the job, his fate will be Sing Sing and the electric chair.
Paul travels to Germany, takes a room in a boardinghouse near the Tiergarten -- the huge park in central Berlin but also, literally, the "Garden of Beasts" -- and begins his hunt. In classic Deaver fashion, the next forty-eight hours are a feverish cat-and-mouse chase, as Paul stalks Ernst through Berlin while a dogged Berlin police officer and the entire Third Reich apparatus search frantically for the American.
Garden of Beasts is packed with fascinating period detail and features a cast of perfectly realized locals, Olympic athletes and senior Nazi officials -- some real, some fictional. With hairpin plot twists, the reigning "master of ticking-bomb suspense" (People) plumbs the nerve-jangling paranoia of prewar Berlin and steers the story to a breathtaking and wholly unpredictable ending.
Deaver fans expect the unexpected from this prodigiously talented thriller writer, and the creator of the Lincoln Rhyme series and other memorable yarns (The Blue Nowhere, etc.) doesn't disappoint with his 19th novel, this time offering a deliciously twisty tale set in Nazi Berlin. The book's hero is a mob "button man," or hit man, Paul Schumann, who's nabbed in the act in New York City but given an alternative to the electric chair: to go to Berlin undercover as a journalist writing about the upcoming Olympics, in order to assassinate Col. Reinhard Ernst, the chief architect of Hitler's militarization, seen as a threat to American interests. A German spy onboard Paul's transatlantic liner grows suspicious and sends a warning to Germany before Paul discovers and kills him. Then in Berlin, Paul, en route to meet his contact, kills a second suspicious man who may be a storm trooper, setting Insp. Willi Kohl of the Berlin police, or Kripo, on his trail. Deaver weaves the three manhunts-Paul after his target, Kohl after Paul and the Nazi hierarchy after Paul-with a deft hand, bringing to frightening life the Berlin of 1936, a city on the brink of madness. Top Nazis, including Hitler, Himmler and Gering, make colorful cameos, but it's the smart, shaded-gray characterizations of the principals that anchor the exciting plot. An affecting love affair between Paul and his German landlady goes in surprising directions, as do the main plot lines, which move outside Berlin as heroes become villains and vice versa. This is prime Deaver, which means prime entertainment. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (July) Forecast: S&S is betting big on this title, with a 250,000 first printing. A 14-city author tour and Deaver's increasingly hot rep should ensure a solid sell-through. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
July 19, 2004
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Excerpt from Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver
As soon as he stepped into the dim apartment he knew he was dead.
He wiped sweat off his palm, looking around the place, which was quiet as a morgue, except for the faint sounds of Hell's Kitchen traffic late at night and the ripple of the greasy shade when the swiveling Monkey Ward fan turned its hot breath toward the window.
The whole scene was off.
Out of kilter...
Malone was supposed to be here, smoked on booze, sleeping off a binge. But he wasn't. No bottles of corn anywhere, not even the smell of bourbon, the punk's only drink. And it looked like he hadn't been around for a while. The New York Sun on the table was two days old. It sat next to a cold ashtray and a glass with a blue halo of dried milk halfway up the side.
He clicked the light on.
Well, there was a side door, like he'd noted yesterday from the hallway, looking over the place. But it was nailed shut. And the window that let onto the fire escape? Brother, sealed nice and tight with chicken wire he hadn't been able to see from the alley. The other window was open but was also forty feet above cobblestones.
No way out...
And where was Malone? Paul Schumann wondered.
Malone was on the lam, Malone was drinking beer in Jersey, Malone was a statue on a concrete base underneath a Red Hook pier.
Whatever'd happened to the boozehound, Paul realized, the punk had been nothing more than bait, and the wire that he'd be here tonight was pure bunk.
In the hallway outside, a scuffle of feet. A clink of metal.
Out of kilter...
Paul set his pistol on the room's one table, took out his handkerchief and mopped his face. The searing air from the deadly Midwest heat wave had made its way to New York. But a man can't walk around without a jacket when he's carrying a 1911 Colt .45 in his back waistband and so Paul was condemned to wear a suit. It was his single-button, single-breasted gray linen. The white-cotton, collar-attached shirt was drenched.
Another shuffle from outside in the hallway, where they'd be getting ready for him. A whisper, another clink.
Paul thought about looking out the window but was afraid he'd get shot in the face. He wanted an open casket at his wake and he didn't know any morticians good enough to fix bullet or bird-shot damage.
Who was gunning for him?
It wasn't Luciano, of course, the man who'd hired him to touch off Malone. It wasn't Meyer Lansky either. They were dangerous, yeah, but not snakes. Paul'd always done top-notch work for them, never leaving a bit of evidence that could link them to the touch-off. Besides, if either of them wanted Paul gone, they wouldn't need to set him up with a bum job. He'd simply be gone.