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In Saville’s alternate history, Great Britain pursued peace with the Nazis after Operation Dynamo—the Miracle of Dunkirk—failed and left a quarter of a million soldiers captured. 

Churchill resigned. Lord Halifax became prime minister. In 1952, there exists the Council of New Europe, an uneasy alliance of Germany, countries subjugated by Hitler and an isolated Great Britain. Vichy France, Italy, Spain and Britain retain some colonies, but the heart of Africa is ruled by the Reich, where the SS enforces the Windhuk Decree, with Africans either massacred or sent to labor or death camps. Conquered Slavs and imported ethnic Germans are left to exploit Africa’s riches for the Reich. Burton Cole, Foreign Legion veteran, is approached by a Mr. Ackerman, representing diamond-mining interests. Cole is offered riches to lead a mercenary team to assassinate SS Obberstgruppenführer Walter Hochburg, governor-general of the Kongo. Cole cares neither for money nor politics. Cole only wants Hochburg dead, but not before Hochburg reveals the fate of Cole’s mother, once a missionary. In the SS fortress of SchädeplatzCole believes he has finally found justice, but the apparent death of the Nazi at knife-point is the mere beginning of a bloody saga of cruelty and corruption, double-dealing and deception. There are gory battles at jungle airfields, in tunnels vital to the Pan African Autobahn and in Angola. Mercenaries are lost one by one. Only Patrick Whaler, Cole’s American sidekick and former Legionnaire chef, and a few African resistência are left to fight, and all of them absorb enough punishment to wipe out regiments while they leave Nazis and collaborators shot, stabbed, bombed and buried. Hochburg, messianic orphan of a massacred German missionary family, is a worthy villain, right up to paving a square with human skulls and burning prisoners at the stake. The realpolitik seems credible, and while some alternate historical factoids seem far-fetched—a multilane autobahn across Africa in 10 years? supersonic jets?—they don’t overshadow the dark and gruesome narrative dynamic.  

A skin-of-the-teeth escape at the end foreshadows a series.

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9593-7
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2012


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