BLACK CROSS by Greg Iles

BLACK CROSS

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Iles (Spandau Phoenix, 1993) delivers a swift historical thriller of such brutal accomplishment that it vaporizes almost every clichÇ about the limits of the genre. It's 1944, and American pacifist Dr. Mark McConnell is recruited from his Oxford chemistry lab by a cagey Scotsman, Brigadier Duff Smith, to undertake a potential suicide mission into Nazi Germany. The Reich possesses horrifying weapons that the Allies suspect Hitler will use against their D-Day invasion forces: Sarin and Soman, nerve gases of unprecedented deadliness. Forbidden from assigning Brits to the mission, but with Churchill's secret blessing, Brigadier Smith pairs McConnell with Jonas Stern, a militant Zionist of German descent, and ships the reluctant duo off to the Scottish Highlands for a crash course in commando skills before parachuting them into Germany. The objective: Release an Allied version of Sarin, code named ``Black Cross,'' on Totenhausen, the very death camp that serves as the Nazi's crucible for further gas research--a camp where Jews are the subjects for the grisly experiments of the sadistic pederast Dr. Klaus Brandt. If the plan succeeds, Hitler will be deterred from deploying his gases on the Normandy beaches. But there's a catch: No one gets out alive (even though Smith has arranged a submarine escape, he expects his operatives to perish with everyone else). That outcome fails to captivate either McConnell or Stern, and it is their decision to tinker with strategy, and the consequent improvisations, that pumps the story so full of runaway-train excitement. Stumbling across ardent co-conspirators and enemy sickos at almost every turn (from a friendly German nurse to a deludedly romantic Nazi major), McConnell learns to kill, terrorist Stern acquires an awkward compassion, and both men take a harrowing wartime ride straight to the century's moral heart of darkness. With time as, alternately, ally and adversary, the good guys struggle to deal their crippling blow to the Nazi war machine. Good enough to read twice. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1995
ISBN: 0-525-93829-X
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994




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