Old Nazis never die—where would thrillers be without them?
When Skottie Foster, an African-American trooper in the Kansas Highway Patrol, flags down Dr. Travis Roan’s Jeep Wrangler, Grecian (Lost and Gone Forever, 2016, etc.) sets her on a dark and dangerous road. Roan is a Nazi hunter, affiliated with the Noah Roan Foundation, a West Coast version of the Wiesenthal Foundation. Accompanied by an enormous mastiff, Roan is in Kansas to confirm a report identifying Rudolph Bormann, who was once an assistant administrator in Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp—where he indulged his penchant for torture and improvised surgery. Roan initially attempts to deflect Skottie’s questions, but by the end of their conversation he has revealed an outline of his mission, and Skottie, fearing he may also intend retribution, alerts the sheriff of the county Roan is headed to. Skottie has problems of her own: She’s living with her mother and her daughter is acting up in school, but she can’t get Roan out of her mind. Eventually she trails after him, and the two become uneasy allies. Bormann has become Rudy Goodman, and his progress through the years is presented in flashback chapters. At first a rancher and family man, he is struck by lightning and, believing or pretending to believe he has powers, buys a derelict church and establishes a Nazi-like cult. By the beginning of the novel he is, at 94, a political and economic power in his corner of Kansas, and he defends his place vigorously. While Skottie is a believable and sympathetic character, both Roan and Bormann/Goodman are extreme examples of their types. Roan is calm, intellectual, unfailingly polite and correct, and seems at times omniscient, while Bormann is the very model of cruel sadism and belief in his own racial superiority, and despite his age, he manages to continue his grisly hobby. Grecian’s narrative also overindulges a bit in its presentation of the varieties of Nazi wickedness, as if every imaginable outrage needed to be included.
A solid if unsurprising thriller in need of some restraint.