THE THIRTEENTH HOUR by John Lee
Kirkus Star

THE THIRTEENTH HOUR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Berlin under siege, April and May 1945--the bombed-out, cellar-rat setting for a solid story of survival-behind-enemy-lines, rather unnecessarily spiced with yet another Hitler pipedream. When an Anglo-American attempt to kidnap Der FÜhrer backfires (""It's the wrong bloody bunker!""), OSS-man Henry Bascom is written off by the London brass and left stranded in Berlin, lumbered with a critically wounded, comatose Englishman whom he barely knows but can't bring himself to abandon. The search for food, shelter, bandages, and escape leads Bascom into the enfeebled (german army and into the cellars of Berlin, where he joins forces--reluctance on both sides--with an ever-growing crowd of homeless, starving Berliners. Meanwhile, Himmler secretly tries to negotiate peace in the West (to allow for full-scale defense against the ravaging, raping Russians), and plans are being made to substitute a carefully faked, burned body in Hitler's bunker when the city's ""thirteenth hour"" arrives. Lee is surely guilty of over-contrivance--he arranges for Bascom to be the only witness to the real Hitler's airlift disappearance--but he renders a briskly convincing, journalistic sense of Berlin's fall, he avoids the clichÉ traps that lurk about (Bascom's relationship with a German girl is kept properly stark), and he shrewdly makes all the international military higher-ups equally repellent. Ignore the misplaced Hitler hook, and suffer enjoyably through an unmannered, tastefully dramatic wartime ordeal.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday