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What really happened to Britain's gold reserves during WW II? Did they ever leave England? Did the Nazis foil plans to remove the gold to New World safety? Well, in Last Message to Berlin (p. 776), Philippe van Rjndt offered a convoluted, speculative version of Britain's secret plan to ship the Bank of England bullion to America for safekeeping--leading up to a nautical battle between Nazi/Allied spies. Here, Lambert's simpler WW II thriller begins more or less where van Rjndt's left off: the gold, on its way to the US, has been hijacked by Nazi super-pirate Ritter, working privately for gold-hungry Goering. And, though his ship's been damaged, Ritter's on his way to Hamburg--where the gold will be shifted to the famed ""Rheingold"" train headed south. Britain's only hope? Safe-cracker Charles Miller, about to be hung in England as a (reluctant) Nazi spy, has the right connections--and the thieving savvy--to pin down the gold's escape-route and steal it back. So the UK fakes Miller's jail-escape; he flees to Germany, learns the gold-transport schedule from old Nazi espionage pals--and leads a motley crew of Englishmen in hijacking the Rheingold and re-routing it towards. . . Dunkirk! A familiar array of obstacles must be overcome, of course: the captured Ritter attempts to sabotage Miller's plan; Goering sends his Luftwaffe in a series of attacks on the train; Miller's spy/love Gisella (a Good German working for Canaris) betrays him; when the German train-driver is killed, there's no one aboard who knows how to control the Rheingold. But Miller (a half-appealing hero) and most of his men manage to reach Dunkirk in time for a golden rendezvous with an English Channel ferry--though a standard ironical twist (the same one that van Rjndt uses at the end of Last Message) turns the whole mission into a hitter joke. Enhanced by a clever 1980s-flashback frame: crisp, sturdy train/chase suspense, with lots of action but less spy/politics appeal than the van Rjndt version.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1984
Publisher: Stein & Day