The Higgins thriller-engine revs up for its 32nd, with Hitler's “secret diary” the McGuffin.
Berlin, April 30, 1945, and that is one bleak and blasted bunker in which Sturmbahnführer Max von Berger makes a command appearance. A diminished Adolph Hitler, his fate sealed, has a final mission for the decorated young officer: to be keeper of the “holy book,” his diary, to guard it closely until the day arrives when it can be used “to advance our cause.” Flash forward to the present. Fortune has smiled on Baron von Berger, propelling him into the loftiest echelon of high-rolling entrepreneurs (munitions, oil) and yet, at the core, he remains as he always was: just a simple soldier for whom the laws of loyalty are immutable. Loyalty to his cherished Führer, of course, but also to the beautiful Kate Rashid, late the half-British, half-Arab countess of Loch Dhue. It was British superagent Sean Dillon, series hero (Midnight Runner, 2002, etc.), who helped render the lovely but lethal Lady Kate deceased, an act of self-preservation if ever there was one. To von Berger, however, there's no such thing as an extenuating circumstance with loyalty the issue. He’d been half in love with the seductive (and willfully wicked) chairperson of multinational Rashid Investments—partnered her in a variety of clandestine ventures—but over and above this he credited her with once saving his life, of having wrested him from the clutches of some murderous Iraqi thugs. In behalf of Lady Kate, then, von Berger commits himself to “a Jihad,” with Dillon and his ever on-call irregulars the announced target. At this point, Hitler's diary (and the revelations therein) becomes what everyone wants and is ready to kill for, setting the stage for the obligatory Higgins bloodbath. “It's like a bad novel, the whole thing,” someone says, admittedly in another context.
The Higgins thriller-engine sputters.