Conspiracy, espionage, and historical suspense prove a heady combination in this debut thriller about Nazi war crimes and big pharma.
Carlson puts the international pharmaceutical industry in its cross hairs in this novel. The story begins with Adolf Hitler as a bright, young pupil in Austria in the late 19th century under the tutelage of a monastery teacher who predicts that the boy would “steer the history of Germany and the world.” Hitler’s incremental rise to prominence continues with the help of secret societies and dignitaries, including a clairvoyant channeler of spirits. These events nicely dovetail into the main narrative involving present-day married couple Dake and Emma Engvall. Emma’s grandfather, psychologist Gunther Ludolf, was recruited from a university in 1945 to assist in mind-control experiments for Dr. Josef Mengele at Nazi concentration camps. After the war, Ludolf changed his name and continued his experiments at the LabUrnum pharmaceutical company but soon regretted his former work, married, and had a son. Upon his death, he left behind an incriminating diary and a collection of film reels, all read and watched by Dake and Emma, who become incensed that the complicit laboratory still thrives. What ensues is a determined search for the truth and a tale built upon the ideal of achieving justice for those who suffered in an “evil plot to subjugate mankind.” Carlson’s story also poignantly captures Emma’s shattered illusions as she comes to terms with the secrets of her grandfather, who also guided her to a faith-based life. In short, clipped chapters, the novel sweeps the protagonists through a fast-moving narrative with serpentine historical roots. The narrative is excessively busy, however; Babylonian cuneiform and a Vatican payoff come into play, along with a supernatural conclusion. Readers may also find the book’s correlations between the “origins of sorcery and modern pharmaceuticals” too convoluted and conspiracy-laden. That said, this will be a page-turner for those who enjoy historical fiction with overtones of subterfuge, heavy-handed biblical references, and governmental propaganda.
A vividly rendered, meticulously researched, and often engrossing read for war buffs and historical suspense fans.