Wright’s (Beyond Ultra, 2011) historical novel continues the saga of the Hoffman and Ortega families as various countries try to track down a German submarine and a man searches for his missing brother.
In 1946, former OSS agent Paul Hoffman still wonders about his brother, Hans, a German U-boat officer who disappeared near the end of World War II along with their uncle, Walter, of the German navy. The Nazis would like to know the whereabouts of the men as well, since their Operation Valhalla failed largely because key information about atomic and biological weapons disappeared—information that was under Walter’s supervision. Former members of the now-dissolved Gestapo decide to keep tabs on the family, including Paul’s brother-in-law, Harvard Law School student Jack Kurtz; and Paul’s cousin, Spanish naval officer Alberto Ortega. Meanwhile, the CIA enlists Paul and Jack to verify or refute the existence of a German nuclear reactor, which leads them to intel on Operation Valhalla, and Spanish Capt. Luis Carrero orders Alberto to track down Paul’s father, Karl, who might lead him to the much-desired Nazi information. Wright’s novel, which spans the years 1946 to 1979, is just as epic in scope as his previous book but decidedly more focused. The first installment, which covered 1915 to 1945, spent the bulk of its story establishing the two families’ histories before delving into the repercussions of war, but this latest is an ideal merging of drama, espionage and historical fiction. Paul’s driving force—finding his brother—is established on the first page and never wavers. The historical backdrop is remarkably detailed, as the characters live through different presidential administrations, the Kennedy assassination, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. Also, this time around, the family drama takes place in the midst of a complex story; Paul, for instance, must deal with the realization that double agents are on American soil as he confronts his slowly developing affection for the widowed Anita, who happens to be his cousin. Wright also offers invigorating action scenes, such as when Paul and Jack narrowly escape from secret police in Prague.
The second installment’s streamlined plot results in a crisper, more engaging thriller.