In war-scarred London as the Allies prepare to invade Europe, an intrepid American female investigator tackles low crime in high places.
Mrazek (Unholy Fire, 2003, etc.) tells a dark, meaty story, ripely cast with members of the U.S. top brass and the British upper crust. The novel floats, and occasionally flounders, on an ocean of detail evoking the sights, smells and mood of an exhausted nation during a grinding war. His improbable protagonist, 25-year-old Jewish forensic genius Liza Marantz, is not only gorgeous but heroic too, having survived a torpedoing in the Atlantic en route to England. Seconded to Major Sam Taggart, a maverick ex-cop now in military security, her job is to safeguard the Allies’ two big secrets: the cracking of the ULTRA code and the launch details of Operation Overlord. When two female colleagues die in suspicious circumstances, Liza and Sam begin to unravel a plot involving bluebloods and senior American officers, in particular General Kilgore, who supplies steaks, whisky and women to the high command. When their investigations penetrate too close to home, the general has Sam removed from the case. Liza goes dancing at the Savoy with scarred Battle of Britain hero Lord Nicholas Ainsley, who invites her to a lavish weekend party at his country estate, Rawcliff. Fellow weekenders include Liza’s code-cracking pal, Charlie Wainwright, and his menacing Irish friend, Des Sullivan; another murder brings Sam dashing to Rawcliff, too. Ainsley, forced to turn traitor because he is bankrupt, and Des, a Nazi spy, kidnap Charlie, intending to fly him to Europe and extract his secrets. Events move at a satisfying clip toward a grand finale that again dunks our heroine into the sea, clinging to an aircraft fuselage along with Charlie and a villain with a prosthetic leg and a romantic soul.
Confident, readable and pleasingly busy entertainment, flavored with a dash of disenchantment.