THE LANDING by Haynes & Howard Simons Johnson
Kirkus Star


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Here, from two Washington journalists, a panoramic thriller of incident and manners, set in 1942 Washington, D.C. The salons of the capitol are obsessed with war, but the city's black neighborhoods have a different preoccupation: a white sniper has been shooting black men. Leon Thomas, a driven black cop, is investigating the killings, and meets WASPish Henry Eaton, a high-level intelligence officer, when one of the dead turns out to be the driver of an important admiral. Meanwhile, two trained-to-murder Abwehr agents have been landed by submarine on Cape Hatteras and are heading toward Washington to receive their mission orders. Gunther, one of the two, arrives in town early, and--ostensibly to protect his cover, but with the glee of a psychokiller--strangles a black prostitute and a Norwegian naval officer with his watch chain. Shortly after Willi, the second agent, reaches Washington, Gunther gets a message from Berlin. Along with his orders, it contains the Abwehr's latest finding: that Willi is actually an American spy. So Willi gets the watch-chain treatment, and Gunther prepares for his real mission--to assassinate Roosevelt. When Willi's body is found with telltale chain marks around his neck, intelligence officer Eaton is particularly interested in the police sketch that his new friend Thomas has compiled of the prostitute's killer. As both Eaton and Thomas track the strangler, Gunther bribes a leading radio personality (also a secret homosexual and one-time Nazi sympathizer) to arrange an introduction with the president. Only Roosevelt's capriciousness saves him from an appointment with the chain-wielding assassin. All this action is fleshed out with canny sketches of real people--Roosevelt, Hoover--and trenchant observations of the seething social and bureaucratic fray. A neatly plotted confrontation, set squarely among genuine events yet always crackling with suspense.

Pub Date: July 16th, 1986
Publisher: Villard/Random House