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Was Adolf Hitler really assassinated in 1943, his place taken by a double, with Martin Bormann the hoax's mastermind? In the right hands, that farfetched idea might be a perfectly viable premise for a fanciful WW II ""faction."" Here, however, middling suspense-writer Forbes (Avalanche Express) doesn't develop that kernel into textured plausibility; instead, he uses it as the springboard for hundreds of pages of utterly routine chase-action--as an Englishman who knows the Hitlerhoax secret tries to reach London with his info. This cardboard hero is Wing Commander Ian Lindsay, a duke's nephew who manages to reach Hitler's Berchtesgaden hideaway in 1943--on a mission (""a sort of Hess in reverse"") to propose peace while collecting data for UK intelligence. But it just so happens that Adolf (killed by a plane-bomb) has been replaced by actor Heinz Kuby, with Bormann (who has purged all witnesses) and Eva Braun (Kuby's longtime mistress, supposedly) the only ones in the know. So ex-actor Lindsay, more discerning (implausibly) than the entire German high command, starts suspecting that this Hitler is a phony--while the Abwehr and Gestapo are keeping busy with another mystery: who is the Soviet mole (code-named ""Woodpecker"") in Hitler's inner circle? Then Lindsay escapes, aided by Hitler's private secretary, who just happens to be part of the anti-Nazi underground. With help from gorgeous super-spy Paco and assorted partisans, he sneaks through Austria to Yugoslavia. But he's being chased by the Gestapo, the SS, and the Abwehr--with kill-orders from Hitler; furthermore, Moscow also wants Lindsay dead, with a mole high-up in British Intelligence arranging for Lindsay's escape route to end in murder. And so it goes--with the revelation of Woodpecker's identity the only semi-surprise (a totally unconvincing one) waiting at the end of this 480-page slog. Forbes writes stolidly at best, more often turgidly. Each plot point is mercilessly, repetitiously belabored. (Bormann explains to Hitler/ Kuby why Lindsay must be killed on p. 313: ""I have studied Lindsay's file carefully. . . He was once an actor."" And he's still at it on p. 409: ""I have read his file. He was once a professional actor. . ."") The supporting players, from the good Nazi to the bad Nazi to the beautiful/noble spy, are as creaky as the celebrity-cameos. All in all: a promising notion bungled at great length--more for undemanding fans of escape-suspense than Hitler-history buffs (who'll be disappointed).

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1984
Publisher: Atheneum