A Jewish dentist battles his way through the Holocaust, the Intifada, and the lingering presence of Nazis.
In this novel, Green (Blue Saltwater, 2010) opens with dentist Friedrich Mendelssohn, who conceals his Jewish ancestry and fills cavities for German officers in World War II Vienna. When one patient, Col. Heinz Bauer, discovers Friedrich’s secret, the two make a bargain that allows the dentist and his fiancee, Eva Schmidt, to escape Europe. They settle in Palestine shortly before the foundation of Israel, and establish a dental practice that treats Jews and Arabs equally. But the practice is destroyed in Arab-Israeli fighting, and Friedrich and Eva leave for the United States with Fadi, the orphaned son of two of their Palestinian employees. In 1992 California, Friedrich is a widower living in a retirement community, and Fadi, now named Frank, has gotten involved with drugs and the Russian mob. With both the police and the criminals chasing him, Frank flees to Egypt and finds himself in Gaza, providing dental care to the settlement. A series of events lands Frank in military custody and brings Friedrich to Israel to own up to his bargain with Bauer and help a group hunting former Nazis in exchange for his son’s freedom. The occasionally convoluted narrative is filled with scenes of sometimes-graphic violence, and offers a stark portrayal of war, insurrection, and the intransigence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Green’s own dental background brings vivid detail to the many extractions and fillings, and the profession that brings both father and son deep into the story’s intrigue is a fully realized element of the tale. Although the plot stretches the bounds of plausibility through its many twists and turns, thriller fans will find nothing truly incredible, and it should appeal to readers with a sense of adventure and a strong stomach. Minor but persistent grammatical and punctuation errors (for example, “He said it’s regarding a man named, Bauer”) are noticeable but do not significantly hamper the writing.
A World War II and postwar thriller driven by one dentist’s fateful decisions, made to protect his family.