Hirshhorn (A Pride of Healers, 1983, etc.) offers an animated chase through Boston and Europe as his characters unravel a mystery involving six pairs of identical Jewish twins saved from a German concentration camp.
In 1965, Paul Brunelle, a scientist fruitlessly searching for the secret of telepathy, receives a tantalizing report of macabre experiments conducted by Martin Heilman, a Nazi researcher on a similar mission. Brunelle searches for the twins who were the subjects of Heilman’s experiments, and he gets help from Anne Rodl, the daughter of another German who was a pawn in a scheme to smuggle unknown items of the collapsing Reich. The first twin they discover—Frieda Grauber, a woman who had lived a solitary life in a Jewish neighborhood of Boston—is already dead, the victim of a grisly murder. Her stomach had been sliced open and an odd, smaller tear made in the area of her appendix. It soon turns out that, not long before her death, Grauber discovered that she was a beneficiary of a mysterious will. The search then jumps the Atlantic to England, where Hammer, the powerful company funding Brunelle’s research, pushes Paxton, the bank that served as an executor for the will, to release information on another set of twins—who also turn out to be dead. The novel’s settings are vivid and refreshingly detailed and include a grotesque concentration camp in Jena, Germany, as well as the Arcadian French Riviera. The cast of villains is equally colorful, and the story takes many unexpected turns. Brunelle, on the other hand, is a stock protagonist about whom readers learn little more than his hair color, his profession, and the fact that he enjoys sailing. Hammer, meanwhile, has the convenient ability to coerce any organization or suspect, but it’s never treated with any scrutiny itself. The novel could also have used a stronger copy edit; for example, various characters’ thoughts are rendered inconsistently, either in all-caps or underlined. Despite these issues, however, the overall story is excellent and a reason to look forward to more from this author.
An often audacious Nazi mystery with plenty of well-placed plot twists.