Junior G-man Jimmy Nessheim graduates to the big time, and the Gestapo and NKVD alike are taking notice.
Why is it that Nessheim was sniffing around Pearl Harbor just before the bombs fell? Readers of Rosenheim’s other books (The Little Tokyo Informant, 2013, etc.) will have an idea but not Nessheim’s law school prof, an ungenial professor Kingsley with an amplitude of snark; no, in the hallowed halls of the University of Chicago, “his presence there, on the day the Japanese attacked, wouldn’t have been believed.” In similar spirit, it’s a little tough to figure that Nessheim, not so very high up in the FBI’s great chain of being, should be hanging around with the likes of Enrico Fermi and Leslie Groves at the dawn of the Manhattan Project, but there it is. Rosenheim being a student of genre conventions, it’s natural that a moll should figure in the proceedings. This one, possessed of a voice “smoky and low” and great gams—think Lauren Bacall—is more interesting than most, but anyone who’s read Dashiell Hammett or especially Raymond Chandler has met her before. Sneers said prof, “Fortunately, she’s a smart girl, even if her previous record here was not what anyone would call outstanding. Still, it seems better for her to be occupied and out of harm’s way than hanging around with a bunch of Jewish Communists in Hollywood.” Take that, J. Edgar! The bad guys are plentiful in Rosenheim’s tale, running the gamut from the German-American Bund goons of predecessor volume Fear Itself (2012) to homegrown members of the Communist Party; naturally, there are those in the Bureau who offer impediments of their own. Rosenheim is good on period details, and the history lines up; it’s also fair to say that the ultimate bad guy isn’t necessarily the one the reader might expect, thanks to deft handling of a red herring or two.
Still, Alan Furst can breathe easy. Rosenheim’s story has its merits, but it’s slack, too full of banter, and not full enough of car chases, explosions, and dead Nazis to satisfy.