Something of an improvement over Shadow of the Wolf (1979), Barwick's second ""speculative"" WW II novel knots together two...

READ REVIEW

THE HANGMAN'S CRUSADE

Something of an improvement over Shadow of the Wolf (1979), Barwick's second ""speculative"" WW II novel knots together two familiar Nazi-fiction themes--international efforts to expose the Holocaust, German efforts to depose Hitler and make peace--in a roughly readable but often fuzzy, contrived, and unconvincing web of episodes. The reluctant hero here is seedy newsman Jim Franklyn, who's working undercover for the OSS in 1941 Munich--where he just happens to receive a whispered message from a nameless, doomed victim of Gestapo torture. This message leads Franklyn to the dead man's widow, a German countess who reveals that her incognito officer husband was captured while passing photo evidence of the Dachau death-camp to a deputy of Pope Plus XII. So Franklyn (quickly in love with the Countess) agrees to help keep the officer's identity a secret and to get hold of more Holocaust evidence--which he manages to do just as Pearl Harbor comes along and forces him to flee to England. Meanwhile, however, Pope Pins has indeed gotten the Dachau evidence, but his top priority is the defeat of atheist Russia; so, before making any anti-Nazi move, he wants to make a deal with Hitler's pal Heydrich: if Heydrich deposes Hitler, makes peace with the West, but continues to battle Russia, he'll get Papal approval. And that plan displeases Churchill and FDR, who want the annihilation of Germany, not peace. Franklyn, then, becomes a pawn in all this: his Dachau report is filed away, and he's dispatched to Prague to assassinate Heydrich--supposedly because Heydrich is the Holocaust mastermind but really to foil that Heydrich/Pius scheme. This isn't even close to plausible. Nor is Hitler's decision to let the wounded Heydrich die (Hitler has gotten wind of the Heydrich plot via Kim Philby and Molotov). Nor is the explanation for Pins' Holocaust silence after Heydrich's death: Hitler's threat to elect a new pope for Western Europe. Too many dubiously interlinked theories, then, draped around an unlikely all-purpose hero--but the spots of action are deft enough, and fans of Nazi-era speculation will certainly get quantity here, if not much quality.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980