Silva brings his Holocaust trilogy to a close with the pursuit of an SS Sturmbahnführer who’s climbed to the top of the greasy pole and stayed there for 60 years.
When a bomb explodes outside the office of Eli Lavon, the archaeologist who’s forsaken ancient history to head Vienna’s Office of Wartime Claims and Inquiry is merely sent to the hospital in a coma, but his two research assistants aren’t so lucky. Sent to investigate the poisoned city where his own family was shattered by terrorists, globe-hopping, art-restoring Israeli spy Gabriel Allon (The Confessor, 2003, etc.) is approached by tearful old violinist Max Klein, who survived Auschwitz to recognize in patrician industrialist Ludwig Vogel the voice of Erich Radek, the camp supervisor who had sent his parents to their death and spared him only to serenade their compatriots as they marched toward their own. Soon after Klein tells Allon that he’d approached Lavon with his suspicions, sealing his doom, he’s dead himself, an apparent suicide, leaving as an inheritance both his knowledge and his danger, since much more than Radek’s own fate hinges on the fortunes of Ludwig Vogel. The Austrian right wing, never long dormant, has powerful reasons for wanting Vogel to remain undisturbed. So do Allon’s sometime friends in the CIA. In his attempts to plumb the depths of Aktion 1005, the real-life Nazi plan to conceal evidence of the death camps, Allon will be putting himself in constant danger of being almost, but not quite, assassinated by a killer dubbed the Clockmaker.
A muffled hero caught in lethargic intrigue that will be disturbing news for readers who haven’t already heard that many Austrians are in deep denial about their wartime history and that American hands aren’t exactly clean in the matter of rehabilitating Nazis. The most chilling section is the historical note at the end.