RINGER by David R. Slavitt


Email this review


A bit of historical fact--the 1942 landing of eight German saboteurs on US shores--is the inspiration for this new novel by the author of Jo Stern and (as Henry Sutton) The Voyeur: a sturdy, moderately fanciful, mostly predictable thriller of Nazis vs. FBI, with an innocent bystander caught in between. Peter King, a US citizen seized by the Gestapo while on a 1942 family rescue-mission, reluctantly agrees to win his freedom by taking part in a wild mission ordered by Hitler: a handful of English-speaking amateurs (some German citizens, some not) will be submarine-landed on America's east coast, then will blow up Jewish-owned department stores in Manhattan! But, while in cut-throat training for this bizarre plan, Peter begins to realize that one of the team--Karl Roeder--is no amateur. And Peter is right: because of internecine Nazi schemings, super-assassin Roeder has been secretly ordered (by Canaris) to become part of the Hitler mission but also to do the extra job of assassinating . . . Albert Einstein at Princeton. Once the saboteurs have landed on Long Island, however, everything goes wrong. Two saboteurs (including Peter's new love Elfreda) are killed. The rest flee in separate directions, with a couple of amusing episodes (clothes-buying in Jamaica, Queens). Two give themselves up to the FBI. And, while the FBI and the Army wrangle internally about how to deal with the saboteur crisis, poor Peter is stuck with the ruthless, panicky Roeder: he tries to get help from the FBI, with no success; he's kidnapped by German spies in Manhattan. So finally, to save himself, Peter must personally prevent Roeder from killing Einstein--in a rather unexciting showdown. Unpretentious, solid imaginary-WW II action overall, most engaging in the intramural feudings on both sides of the Atlantic; but the Peter/Roeder plotting is less than plausible--and readers primarily interested in the saboteur history will want to stick with Eugene Rachlis' engrossing non-fiction report, They Came to Kill (1961).

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1982
Publisher: Dutton