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FEAR ITSELF by Andrew Rosenheim


by Andrew Rosenheim

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4683-0072-7
Publisher: Overlook

Serviceable historical thriller from publishing veteran Rosenheim.

Junior FBI agent Jimmy Nessheim has a thorny problem on his hands: There are 40 million Americans of German descent, a great many of whom sympathize with the Nazis or at least want neutrality, and here the much-reviled Franklin Roosevelt is making noises that the U.S. might just have to go to war to contain Herr Hitler. Nessheim—and Roosevelt, for that matter—have reason to worry, for the German-American Bund, among other homegrown organizations, is chock-full of Nazi operatives, some of whom speak in sneers worthy of a Maj. Strasser (“Now tell me, Herr Werner, did you bring the weapon we sent you?”). Buried deep inside some nice leafy American suburb is a nasty Nazi Manchurian candidate called Dreiländer—“he of three countries,” that is—who’s ready to pop up and work some mischief, and so Nessheim and his fellow G-men are, naturally, up against the clock. Can they defeat the Gestapo when there are so many suspects to interrogate? (“I’ve got an uncle named Maier. He’s married to my mother’s sister.”) Maybe, and maybe not: Things could work out in a Philip Roth tangle. But Rosenheim’s more conventional than all that, and if he includes the nice touch of putting the oft-neglected jurist Felix Frankfurter on stage—and Frankfurter just doesn’t get to star in enough Bogart-worthy thrillers—then he’s also not shy of layering in clichés and genre conventions to do his work for him: “...his immersion in the water had left him looking entirely peaceful. And dead, thought Nessheim with a jolt.” Why a jolt, one wonders? Did it only lately occur to Nessheim that the corpse was in fact dead?

A rich premise, with a readable if sometimes predictable and heavy-handed delivery.