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Alexander Hamilton Albright has a genius for languages and was taught parachuting by his father during the Depression when Dad was American ambassador in Budapest. Now it's 1944 and the Germans are retreating from Budapest, blowing up the city and shipping 7000 Hungarian Jews on the last train to Auschwitz. Albright, an OSS agent, has four days to engineer an OSS coup that will save the victims-to-be. But a new twist arises: Hitler orders Eichmann to trade Hungary's 750,000 Jews for 7500 brand-new American Army trucks, trucks to be used only against the Russians. OSS Chief Donovan tells Albright that the US has no intention of doing the deal, but is airlifting one truck in as bait so that Albright can assassinate Eichmann, start an uprising, and draw Nazi troops away from Ike's forthcoming invasion of Normandy. So, in North AfricÃ…, Albright's team is trained by Zionist activist-spy Guida DeVita and Albright falls in love with parachutist-poet-pianist Ruth Bar-Adon (though their passion isn't consummated until they're crossing Yugoslavia with Tito's guides). Then, however, when Albright meets Hammer, the woman leader of the Hungarian underground, he finds that Donovan has tricked him: there's no plot against Eichmann but rather one to establish Nazi collaborator Teleki as the postwar anti-Soviet figure in Hungary. (""Anti-Semitism is as Hungarian as chicken paprika,"" Hammer says, so only Teleki can rouse the underground.) But Albright tries to assassinate Eichmann anyway, kills the wrong man, Ruth is captured--and the attempt to save both Ruth and the trainload of Jews involves a subplot twist with famed double-agent Kim Philby. A bit over-complicated? Yes, it is. But the Hungarian backgrounds are unusual and convincing, and the characters somewhat more rounded than most suspense-fiction puppets. All in all, then, an intriguing, if not enthralling, quasi-historical thriller.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1981
Publisher: Doubleday