A German spy operating in Britain gathers valuable secrets in this thriller, the first installment of a World War II trilogy.
In May 1944, two weeks before D-day, Maj. Erik von Walburg rows a skiff off the Scottish coast. After spending several months undercover in England as a German agent, he is now rendezvousing with a U-boat that will take him back to mainland Europe. He has acquired vital information that has the potential to alter the course of the war, and is determined to deliver it directly to his commanding officer, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. After Erik spots the U-boat, he’s ecstatic (“He really was going to make it out of England.…By what strange alchemy, by what higher power, had he been granted the opportunity to save Germany from certain defeat?”). Unfortunately for Erik, the U-boat—captained by his brother, Wolfgang—that the agent boards quickly becomes engaged in combat with a set of British destroyers, and the entire crew is taken prisoner. The Walburg brothers are sent to a prison camp in Colorado. As the British, Americans, and other Germans become aware of Erik’s status as a spy, and of his possession of significant intelligence, a complex adventure unfolds. Marquis (The Coalition, 2016, etc.) goes to great lengths to explain to readers that while Erik is a patriotic German agent, he is not ideologically a Nazi. This may appear to many as a meaningless distinction, but the author manages to sell it as valid and historically plausible. Indeed, Marquis, who has clearly done his homework, displays considerable knowledge and accuracy in his depictions of things like British intelligence agencies and American prisoner-of-war camps. But, like too many historical fiction writers, he insists on showing off this research, forcing references to military history, military structure, and even pop culture into the dialogue. Plot points can also be a bit heavy-handed, as Marquis relies on devices such as familial coincidences and a literal perfect storm. Still, the type of reader drawn to this novel is probably not looking for subtlety or nuance. The author is at his best when he goes over the top with lines like “He unleashed a blistering fire at Hoover and his G-men.” Readers looking for an unapologetic historical action book should tear through this volume.
A wide-ranging, if uneven, World War II espionage novel, set mostly in the American West.