Charlotte Gold, a Philadelphia attorney with an expertise in war crimes who escaped the big bad world of legal firms to work as a public defender, is talked into helping defend aged financier Roger Dykmans, who is being held in Germany as a Nazi collaborator. As she unravels mysteries from the past, she discovers important truths about herself.
The younger brother of Hans Dykmans, a Schindler-like hero, Roger is an uncooperative client, leading Charlotte to search the dark mysteries of the past in Germany, Poland and Italy. Her partner on the case is the starchy Jack Warrington, younger brother of Brian, the slick lawyer who broke Charlotte's heart years ago by leaving her for another woman when Charlotte was caring for her ill mother, but who shows up out of the blue to ask her to drop everything and go to Europe. Jenoff, a Holocaust authority herself (The Kommandant's Girl, 2007, etc.), moves between past and present to trace the events leading to Roger's arrest. His reticence is tied to his star-crossed love affair with his brother's wife Magda, who would perish in a concentration camp. At the center of the mystery is a rare clock crafted by a Bavarian farmer in 1903 who sold it hoping to use the proceeds to save his pregnant wife from an earlier campaign against European Jews. The book boasts a sure grasp of period details, and shows a subtle hand in depicting the Nazis' slowly intensifying threat. But the unlikely romance of Charlotte and Jack struggles to rise above standard romance-novel fare, and Jenoff's matching threesomes are a bit schematic.
It would help if the men were more appealing. Still, a skillfully rendered tale of undying love, unthinkable loss and the relentless grip of the past on the present.