Awkward spies, a helpful bad guy, and a love of the German countryside mark this exceptional period thriller focused on homegrown opposition to Hitler.
German officers mulling a “nascent Resistance” to Hitler’s prewar moves dispatch a fledgling spy named Oskar to seek support in the U.S. When that fails, Oskar goes into hiding until a stateside group of expatriates opposed to Hitler books him passage to Germany, where he hopes to slip in without being noticed, with a group member posing as his wife. The ship happens to carry the same U.S. senator Oskar sought out in Washington, now on a fact-finding junket that becomes an impromptu spying mission. Also aboard is the senator’s teenage son, on his way to a German summer camp under the protection of an unusually accommodating SS officer. Soon after the ship docks in Bremerhaven, the trouble deepens. Oskar and his “wife” are compelled to travel by car with the SS man and the teen. Gunfire erupts in a safe house. Headlines blare claims that the teen has been kidnapped. A full-blown hunt is on for Oskar & Co.—“the most wanted people in the Third Reich.” They flee by boat on the Weser River, drive and hike through the forests of Hesse, and end in a satisfying climax at a mountain lodge (the same one central to the author’s previous novel), complete with spycraft and James Bond–ish moments. Grant (Another Green World, 2006, etc.) builds the tension slowly—it seems for a time the story is going nowhere—then ratchets it up with fine pacing. The main characters are well-drawn, but the minor ones are also memorable, from a White Russian princess in an ancien régime Berlin salon to a cabaret mentalist who suffers for misreading his audience.
To the shelves groaning with countless Adolf-addled efforts, this is an understated, entertaining addition.