The Sterling Forest by John Fenzel

The Sterling Forest

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A newly elected U.S. congressman, before he’s ever sworn in, travels to Europe to uncover his family’s secret history as Lithuanian resistance fighters in Fenzel’s (The Lazarus Covenant, 2009) thriller.

Illinois congressman-elect Daniel Tory, a mere week after his victory, heads to his old neighborhood in Chicago. He’s saddened by the passing of his beloved Uncle Jonas, but even more shaken by a photograph he finds near his uncle’s body. It shows a much younger Jonas; Daniel’s mother, Tanya; and another man, all dressed in what appear to be Soviet Army uniforms. Tanya won’t explain the picture, and Daniel later learns that Jonas, who came from a family of Lithuanian émigrés, was actually a closet millionaire who left him millions. Jonas’ safe deposit box reveals more: a diary from Daniel’s father, Lucas, who died decades ago in a Soviet prison without knowing his son, and considerably more funds in Swiss bank accounts. Hoping for answers, Daniel flies to Switzerland—Jonas left him a custom jet—with just-appointed, multilingual Chief of Staff Robin Nielsen, who translates Lucas’ journal. Awaiting him in Geneva is the Tory Foundation, an organization pitted squarely against Russia. Daniel, as the foundation’s new leader, is now an apparent Kremlin target. He also catches wind of a potential Russian invasion of the Baltics. With help from friends and the CIA, he dodges assassins and tries to prevent a third world war. Fenzel manages a steady pace for his protagonist, whose adventure necessitates further flights to Moscow and Vilnius, Lithuania. Along the way, there are quite a few plot bombshells. The intermittent appearances of Lucas’ journal entries are surprisingly riveting as they tell the story of two brothers who battle Soviet soldiers and steal Nazi gold. The story is hampered by unmistakable errors, though, including muddled dates for Lucas’ birth year and when exactly the Soviets imprisoned him. Fenzel bolsters the tale with a predictable but welcome romance between Daniel and Robin, as well as credible action: after all, jumping from a moving train is far from easy for an untrained, inexperienced protagonist, and it’s not something that Daniel would like to repeat.

A well-paced espionage tale that centers on the slow unraveling of a complex mystery.

Pub Date: July 8th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-9822379-1-5
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Breathe Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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