Brennan’s three intertwined novellas revolve around the Nazi occupation of Prague and the assassination of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich in 1942.
The first section of Brennan’s accomplished and readable novel is a lightly fictionalized “autobiography” of Czechoslovakian Gen. František Moravec. After experience on the Eastern Front during World War I, then time as a Russian prisoner of war and as one of the heads of the Czech resistance in exile, Moravec was one of the chief architects behind Operation Anthropoid, the plot to assassinate Heydrich, the brutal Czech proconsul. The second section is a minute-by-minute documentation of the operation, told through a collection of reports and memoranda. The final section is the almost stream-of-consciousness diary of Czech collaborator Karel as he sits in jail awaiting his execution. “The key to controlling the present is controlling the past…. And the best way to control the past is to tell a story about it,” says one resident of occupied Czechoslovakia, and this is certainly the case in Brennan’s triptych. Three very different prisms are implemented to bring Operation Anthropoid—and the larger experience of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia—alive for readers. The central events of the story—the plot to kill Heydrich, the assassination itself and the staggering reprisals taken by the Nazis—are approached from several different angles, heightening both the tension and the power of the narratives. Brennan’s command of facts is absolute and his ear for dialogue is pitch-perfect. The author is unafraid of making readers spend a great deal of time with some very unsavory people; Karel is particularly repellent yet mesmerizing.
An extremely impressive debut.