THE ANVIL CHORUS by Shane Stevens

THE ANVIL CHORUS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

When the dead body of a Nazi war criminal is found in 1975 Paris, apparently murdered, French/Jewish police inspector C‚sar Dreyfus is drawn into an obsessive search for the killer--a search that involves several WW II secrets, a few present-day spy secrets (French, German, Israeli), and a near-ludicrous profusion of battered corpses. That initial dead man is, or so it seems, middle-aged ex-SS officer Dieter Bock, ""hanged with piano wire and left to rot."" Soon, however, C‚sar deduces that the corpse isn't Bock but a cleverly faked substitute: the real Bock, now at large, is the killer! Futhermore, assorted evidence suggests that Bock has been killing ex-Nazis around Europe on a regular basis. Why? Is this carnage connected to some secret Nazi doings 30 years ago? Or is it connected to the fact that Bock is also a double-agent spy--working for both East Germany and the French SCE (notorious for its ex-Nazi contingent) at the same time? C‚sar sleuths around and around in circles while brooding--on his recent divorce, on his long-dead parents (Holocaust victims), on his feelings of survivor-guilt and vengefulness. He barely escapes two attacks on his life--by the elusive Bock, by the SCE. He falls in love with gorgeous Jacqueline, sister of Bock's dead French wife (also murdered)--a femme fatale very much in the Bridget O'Shaughnessey mode. Eventually, after many more murders (including that of C‚sar's partner), C‚sar is convinced that the key to the case involves a huge cache of hidden Nazi gold. So he goes to Austria and Germany for a series of showdowns--with a German financier, with super-killer Bock--before all the motives are clear (blackmail, a dark Israeli secret) and all the remaining villains become corpses. Stevens (By Reason of Insanity, Go Down Dead) has a few intriguing ideas and flavorings here--including the distinctive nature of past/present French anti-Semitism; his action scenes are leanly visceral. Unfortunately, however, the European atmospheres are flat, often unconvincing (especially when the C‚sar/Jacqueline story becomes a Maltese Falcon imitation); the characterization of Holocaust-haunted C‚sar is morosely belabored yet never fully textured. And the convoluted plot is stretched out to talky, repetitious over-length--making this a just-passable entertainment for fanciers of thickly layered whodunit/espionage hybrids: initially absorbing, uneven thereafter.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1985
Publisher: Delacorte