Not many people know this, but the four raffish heroes of The Shadow of a Shadow (1991) returned 20 years later to battle the Nazis in 1941 Mexico, as Taibo recounts in this outrageous palimpsest of wartime intrigue.
Thing is, the “devout atheists” return as shadows. Journalist Pioquinto Manterola’s main claim to fame is that he’s not Mark Twain; one-armed Poet Fermín Valencia Taivo continues to publish pseudonymous pornography but not a single poem; low-rent attorney Alberto Verdugo proudly wears his private lunacy as a talisman against the world’s much more dangerous madness; and Mazatlán Chinese guerilla Tomás Wong, a.k.a. the Iguana, is killed in enemy action only to rise again. Their target, if only they were organized enough to have a target, begins as a mysterious conspiracy linking three men—Austrian émigré Dr. Salomon Leonard Herschel, albino fisherman Stanley Kowalski, and ex-SS officer Gerhard Brüning—who happen to share Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Following an outlandish chain of evidence, the non-investigators predict a personal visit by the Führer, who, already addicted to caffeine and peyote, is coming to Veracruz on a visit clandestinely supported by the likes of one-eyed Nazi press secretary Arthur Dietrich and Mexican Interior Minister (and future President) Miguel Alemán, already burnishing his reputation for corruption by sleeping with Reich-connected actress Hilda Krüger. How to fight back? Grab that hard-drinking stalwart Ernest Hemingway, who’s laboring over Islands in the Stream unaware that the other characters are already enjoying the unwritten Across the River and Into the Trees. The main obstacle to a satisfying climax, however, is the dozens of chapters accurately labeled “Interruptions and Invasions,” which constantly prevent the shaggy story, à la Tristram Shandy, from getting anywhere.
Even readers unacquainted with the earlier authors Taibo is channeling, from Cervantes to Borges to Umberto Eco, will find something to love in this Frederick Forsyth yarn reworked by Monty Python.