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A didactically poor excuse for a thriller from a best-selling author (The Palace; The Panic of '89, etc.) who once set the standard for fiscal entertainments. In a blend of fact and fancy, complete with lengthy footnotes on arcane source material, Erdman makes Allen Dulles, the OSS's man in WW II Switzerland, a central figure. Among other clandestine activities, Dulles runs a trio of youthful agents he code names the ""Swiss Account."" Its members include two anti-Nazi nationals, Peter Burckhardt (scion of a banking dynasty) and his sister Felicitas (a brilliant physics student), plus plucky Jewish lass Nancy Reichman (the US vice-consul in Basel). While Dulles gleans valuable intelligence from the three amateurs and their workaday contacts (Per Jacobsson of the BIS, army officers, political police, et al.), he must assuage Washington's increasingly hostile concerns about an ostensible neutral whose commercial/industrial collaboration helps sustain Hitler's war machine. In this course of the ploddingly plotted, suspense-free recital, superspook Dulles and his identikit recruits meet with SS General Schellenberg and his aides, do battle with villainous Soviet operatives, gather incriminating clam on indigenous arms-makers, as well as financial institutions, and otherwise aid the cause of the Allies. Early in 1945, the espionage chieftain sends his Swiss Account team across the border and into the snowbound Black Forest to check on Germany's progress toward developing an atomic bomb. With remarkable ease, they return with information enough for Dulles to cripple the Third Reich's nuclear program via pressure on the Swiss government to withhold vital supplies. At which point, the story ends--not with a bang but with an epilogue detailing what happened to the dramatis personae, fictive and real, after V-E Day. Historic implausibilities apart, Erdman appears more interested in bringing the Swiss establishment to book on the score of its wartime profiteering than in keeping the narrative pot boiling. He succeeds all too well.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's