A recent college graduate embarks on a project that investigates mysteries from the 1940s.
In this novel, Foyt (Marcel Proust in Taos, 2013, etc.) begins the plot just before Sara Vogel’s college graduation. James Whitcomb Riley College is on the verge of closing, and the institution’s president, Skip Kinkaid, hopes to motivate one of his soon-to-be-former students to continue his passion project: investigating the funding of the Nazis in World War II. Kinkaid convinces Sara, an aspiring historian still mourning her brother Jack’s death in Afghanistan, to pursue his research when he finds a link to her own family’s history. Under the auspices of the Institute to End War, Sara travels to Switzerland, where she reconnects with her estranged banker father, then heads to Chateau Rougemont in search of information on wartime finance. Sara discovers that her grandfather worked as a servant in the house and left behind a diary chronicling the visits of international bankers. With the help of a few inadvertent trips back to the ’40s, Sara is able to unravel the Nazi monetary mysteries and contribute to research that advances peace around the world. The hints of time travel add a unique layer to a straightforward tale of uncovering wartime secrets, and Sara’s gradual reconnection to her family after a period of isolation provides valuable character development. But the writing is often awkward (“displaying the typical smug possessive male smile from which Sara was growing to feel alienated”; “What a glorious, colorful time in history Medieval pageants must have been for those people”). And there are some elements that seem driven by misinformation (doctoral students generally do not jump from college graduation to dissertation writing; it is unlikely that a person who “was soon to become an American university graduate” would cringe at ending a sentence with a preposition). The plot would benefit from tighter editing (characters integral to the opening chapters play no role in the later story), but the novel presents an intriguing and thoughtful exploration of another side of warfare.
A captivating tale of historical research and family secrets.