You got your neo-Nazis, your hidden treasure, your frenetic action scenes, your life-or-death, fate-of-the-nation issues . . . but it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that rooting interest.
Back for a second go-round is high-end art thief Tom Kirk, as woefully wooden as he was in his debut (The Double Eagle, 2005). Maybe more so, inasmuch as he’s reformed—rectitude, unfortunately, seldom counting for much in the charisma department. Approached by British Intelligence, Kirk learns of two related unsettling developments: (1) A Nazi derivative called Kristall Blade (derived in turn from Kristallnacht) has become virulently operational, and (2) the group has some kind of collusive relationship with Kirk’s erstwhile best friend, transmogrified through betrayal into his bitterest enemy. MI6 is asking for Kirk’s help, Agent Turnbull makes clear, with nothing tangible to offer in return, hoping instead to persuade him that Kristall Blade is not merely heinous but a dire threat to the nation’s stability. True enough, Agent Turnbull knows his man; still, it’s the name Henry Julius Renwick that really gets Kirk’s attention. And so he signs on, and before long is deeply involved in trying to determine how a seemingly humdrum painting connects to the mutilation and murder of a Holocaust survivor, connects to an elite Nazi secret society, connects to an American backwoods cult, connects to the gorgeous and storied Amber Room (commissioned by Frederick the Great as a gift for Catherine the Great), connects to a pair of decades-old trains in an abandoned Austrian copper mine. And how all of this connects to Henry (Judas) Renwick, Kirk’s bête noir, a man with as charmed a life as Holmes’s Moriarty—to whom, at a pivotal moment, bested and beleaguered, he gets to utter (“through clenched teeth”) that sturdy hack fiction line: “This isn’t over, Harry.”
Frenetic action scenes do not a thriller make.