Nazi baddies meet good guys straight out of Rick’s Café Americain—or, that is, the Club Alibi. Guess who wins.
It’s March 1940, the darkest moment of the darkest hour, and intrepid spy type Jacques Allier is in a sticky wicket in Oslo: He’s got to hightail it from Norway, and he’s got a Teutonic hellhound on his tail. The airport, as you might expect, is a nervous-making place. No, not just nervous-making: Thriller-genre regular and former CIA analyst Mathews (Blown, 2005, etc.) writes, in a ham-fisted moment: “Each of the waiting passengers was desperate enough to leave Oslo in the dead of night and dead of winter, so the air hummed with suppressed violence and restlessness and incipient hysteria.” Allier pulls a boarding-pass switcheroo and avoids being blown out of the sky by evil Hitlerites—and good thing, too, for he’s got a supply of the heavy water that the Nazis need to build an A-bomb, “something that could destroy the entire city of New York with a pound or two of explosive,” proof that Einstein and company had better get cracking. The bad guys aren’t through with Allier or his crew of allies, contacts, acquaintances and other denizens of a Paris on the brink of occupation. The assembled good guys, an international, multiethnic, equal-opportunity bunch out of Casablanca and a few dozen other WWII storylines, have their work cut out for them. One big question is how to keep a Parisian cyclotron out of German hands, another how to stay alive with all those blond beasts, some of them freelance, running around causing mayhem, slitting kids’ throats, shooting partisans in the head and suchlike. It’s touch and go, but justice prevails and the Allies win the war—but that’s another story.
We’re in Alan Furst territory here, save that Furst’s plotting and writing are orders-of-magnitude better. Still, serviceable as Nazi-era genre thrillers go, with suspenseful moments to match the slack ones.