Edgar-nominee Cook (The Last Talk with Lola Faye, 2010, etc.) plays the spy game in this mystery adventure.
Soon after 9/11, Paul Crane, a young think-tank researcher, interviews Thomas Danforth, an elderly New York City resident who believes he has information relevant to defending America against fanatics. Danforth wants the meeting because Crane wrote an article demanding a revenge-filled response to 9/11. Crane is skeptical, but Danforth unfolds a tale that begins in 1939, when he ran his father's import business. With the war imminent, Danforth was lured into an anti-Nazi conspiracy by his college friend, Robert Clayton. Other characters enter, including Ted Bannion, a disillusioned Spanish Civil War loyalist, and Anna Klein, a mysterious and beautiful young linguist. Captivated by Anna, Danforth accompanies her to Europe, where, with Bannion's help, she intends to organize Spanish Loyalists interned in France into an anti-Nazi force. That scheme fails. The three then decide Danforth will pose as an art dealer seeking Hitler's paintings. The plan is assassination, but the Gestapo intervenes. Bannion takes cyanide. Klein, by now the object of Danforth's passion, is captured. But because of his father's connections, Danforth is simply deported from Nazi Germany. The narrative regularly shifts from the interview to Danforth's adventures in the abattoir that was Europe in the 1940s, where he sought to learn Anna's fate. Clues hint Anna was a double or triple agent, and Danforth is eventually sent to the Soviet Union to determine her identity. There he's taken for a spy and sent to the gulag for 12 years. As the story unfolds, Danforth pushes and prods the callow Crane toward understanding the complexity of moral choices, the shadows that obscure love and loyalty and the perils of cause becoming obsession. Absent one minor point, Cook's plot is as captivating as his characters. It's rendered in an often ear-pleasing literary style— "the sewer's most pernicious flotsam"— and laced with dozens of intriguing historical anecdotes.
A knight errant, a labyrinth of deceit, a sure bestseller.