A French Resistance fighter and German art historian must outwit the war machine in this well-oiled suspense thriller set in Nazi-occupied Paris.
It's 1941, and the Nazis have overrun Paris. Cristoph Richter, a young German veteran and expert in Dutch painting, finds himself unwillingly conscripted into the FÃ¼hrer’s plot to loot the art treasures of Paris and â€œreturn” them to Germany. Meanwhile, Frenchman Jacques Agazarian is caught in an even tougher spot: He's been hiding out with the Resistance for a year, unable to make contact with his daughter, Anabella, or his wife, Lillie, whom he knows Richter has wooed. Developing something of a conscience after his former professor and fellow conscript, Professor Metternich, apparently commited suicide to protest the thefts, Richter plots to set aside some of the stolen art treasures for himself and flee to Switzerland with Lillie and Anabella. Simultaneously, Agazarian decides to make contact with Lillie, a liaison in the German embassy whom he suspects is plotting with the Resistance to destroy Goering's train. Reunited with his wife, Jacques plans to leave the country with her after performing one last mission with the Resistance, thus establishing the novel's love triangle. The author approaches moral territory in both men's dereliction of duty, as well as the swirling taboos within the love triangle, but the novel is too crammed with action for its author to properly explore it. With the two men on a collision course, double-crossings and explosions follow, and Hitler, Goering, et al., make cameos mercifully free of sinister laughter. Eva Braun plays the part of Richter's evil temptress in one memorable scene. Despite the reader's foreknowledge of the fates of these historical characters, Palumbo wrings simmering suspense from almost every page.
With nary a loose plot end, Palumbo's first novel is an agreeable mix of sex, history and derring-do that moves a little too neatly to take advantage of its rich settings and themes–but it's so, so close.