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The Bormann Receipt had to be a thriller because the facts behind the fiction are so bizarre that many readers would find them incredible."" If there is indeed a coherent factual account behind Duke's story, it's a pity that she has fluffed it up into what reads like a confused and amateurish imitation of one of Robert Ludlum's neo-Nazi paranoia-thons. The kernel of the tale is intriguing and levelheaded enough: the Nazis confiscate a truckload of great paintings from a wealthy Jewish-Austrian family; after the War, the sole surviving family member (here called Isabel Brown) struggles for 30 years to track down and reclaim her priceless property. But, in detailing the obstacles faced by Isabel and her allies (old flame Simon, Simon's son Peter), Duke posits a ""worldwide Nazi Mafia"" that kidnaps Simon and murders hither and yon, as well as the graft and corruption of the current German and Austrian regimes, all too eager to hold on to stolen goods inherited from the Nazis. None of this is necessarily too farfetched for thriller consumption, but obviously torn between the requirements of fiction and the missionary zeal born of real-life frustration, Duke exercises no real control over her material: the plot lurches, rambles, and backtracks; stick-figure characters participate in lifeless and/or hysterical dialogues. As it happens, the bare ""real-life"" outlines of Duke's labyrinth appear in a brief piece in I, Witness (p. 218); all that's been added here is enough wool to infuriate anyone interested in the facts.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1978
Publisher: Stein & Day