This fourth volume of a World War II series focuses on the North Africa campaigns.
Marquis (Spies of the Midnight Sun, 2018, etc.) continues his streak of top-notch and extremely readable World War II novels with this story of the Africa operations that puts a biographical emphasis on a handful of figures, some famous and others lesser-known. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the commander of the Afrika Korps at the peak of its glory and then during its worst defeats, of course features prominently. But so do Scottish Lt. Col. David Stirling, who led the Special Air Service in a series of raids on Axis airfields that eventually turned the tide of the theater’s conflict; Hekmat Fahmy, an Egyptian belly dancer who moonlighted as a German secret agent; British Maj. A.W. Sansom, a famed hunter of Axis spies and sympathizers whose story is told in intriguing detail; Lt. Johannes Eppler, a German spy who is expertly fleshed out here; and Col. Bonner Fellers, who was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for his “uncanny ability” to predict the course of events in the Middle East. Through these players and a host of secondary figures, Marquis vividly reconstructs key events, including the oft-told tale of Operation Condor, which has been adapted for fiction and cinema but which the author approaches fresh. “With the relevant WWII records now available,” he writes, “it is time the true story is told.” Throughout the book, Marquis uses records and diaries in order to reconstitute dialogue, a tricky narrative move he handles with smooth skill. Likewise, he deftly evokes color and personality, whether it be his big marquee names or “the usual big-city lowlife of crooks, deserters, prostitutes, extortionists, fences, gunrunners, and hashish dealers” who populate the fringes of his story. This is a rigorous historical novel that reads like the best World War II fiction.
A sharply entertaining, in-depth tale of desert warriors.