Espionage agencies again call upon a forensic dentist’s expertise when it appears that Adolf Hitler may have fathered two sons in Woods-Frankel’s (False Impressions, 2012) second book in his historical mystery series.
In 1992, Dr. Steve Landau, in Israel to give a lecture at the Mossad Forensic Institute, is enjoying vacation time with his girlfriend, forensic psychologist Nita Lazar. But his plans change when CIA agent Herb Robinson and KGB Col. Mischa Kovalyov tell him that they need his help. They need him to confirm recent intel that the buried body of Hitler isn’t actually the dictator at all. Steve’s forensic dental skills validate the suspicion, and additional information suggests that the late Soviet leader Josef Stalin, who was sterile, may have used Hitler’s semen to impregnate two women, who each had a son. With the FBI’s assistance, Steve and his colleagues track down one of the sons in America, a wealthy, dangerous arms dealer. This mystery/thriller revels in its alternative history, spending a large part of the book in a flashback focusing on Hitler at the end of World War II. Later, the story moves into the 1960s to focus on his sons, Josif and Iliyich, who take notably different paths in life. Initially, this section doesn’t move much beyond what Steve, Nita and Herb have already learned, but it’s enthralling nonetheless. Steve and Nita are engaging protagonists, adept with weapons and close-quarters combat, and they stubbornly refuse to abandon the investigation. But that investigation can be confusing at times; for example, it’s initially unclear why the search for Josif is so urgent, although it becomes clearer when they realize he may be planning an attack on the United States. The plot also sometimes relies on coincidence, such as the brothers’ convenient reunion in America. However, Woods-Frankel keeps the tension high by taking his heroes through a gunfight, a kidnapping, and a tragic death or two.
A thriller with estimable lead characters and engrossing villains that make up for an occasionally muddled plot.