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Black Cross (World War Two #1)

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  8,057 Ratings  ·  443 Reviews
It is January 1944. The whole world awaits the Allied invasion of Europe. But in England, Winston Churchill has learned that Nazi scientists have developed Sarina horrifying new weapon that could turn the tide for Hitler. Only a desperate gamble can avert disaster. Two mena pacifist American doctor and a fanatical Jewish assassinmust embark on a murderous mission into t ...more
Kindle Edition, 656 pages
Published (first published January 28th 1995)
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Book-reader's Bias: Due to my recent non-fiction readings on WWII heroic men of science material, I was probably a bit more apt to be underwhelmed by the fictional portrayals of same in this book than I might have otherwise been. It's an interesting adventure story with decent verisimilitude, oh and also science.

Gas! Gas! Quick Boys!
My 11th grade history class (Modern Euro) was a pretty lackluster affair. However, it did introduce me to one of the most memorable and powerful reflections on war I
Oct 04, 2016 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is my first Greg Iles book but it proved to be such a riveting read I can comfortably say that I will be picking up all of his work in the future. From the first few pages I could tell this was going to be good but I wasn't expecting to be hooked quite so much.

The nuts and bolts of the story isn't wildly different to many novels I've read before; a couple of misfits are required to pull off an impossible task that they're not wholly equipped to deal with. The difference here was there w
The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon)

If you like action the action and adventure in a James Rollins Novel, the historical accuracy of Tim Powers and a tightly woven complex plot like in Robert Ludlum's books, you'll love this one. It's strange, the books I like the most, get the shortest reviews? (funny huh?)

The story is set in WWII England and Germany. The main character, a Doctor and Scientist who is also a pacifist, and one of the Allies leading experts on poison gas gets recruited for a risky mission with little chance of
Steven Z.
Apr 23, 2017 Steven Z. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While attending the funerals of his grandparents, Dr. Mark McConnell meets an old friend of his grandfather, Rabbi Leibovitz. For years the Rabbi worked with McConnell’s grandfather who had difficulty coping with his experiences from World War II. It seemed that his grandfather had been awarded a secret version of the Victoria Cross, England’s highest award for “unparalleled acts of valor and devotion in the face of the enemy,” kept many secrets from his son and grandson. McConnell is stunned as ...more
This was one incredible book. The book is based during WWII at one of Germany's camps where different gases were tested. The book is a snap shot of England and America and their reaction to the rumor that Germany has perfected a gas for warfare. The allies send their brave men into the fray in order to save the day for the victims in the camp and the world at large. It is a hard and emotional read, Greg didn't pretty it up, IMO. But he did include moments of beauty and love within the horrors of ...more
Patrice Hoffman
Jul 02, 2011 Patrice Hoffman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was seriously a roller coaster ride for me. I have never read any war books or even wanted to for that matter but I seriously could not put this down. This is the first book I've read by this author. I will definitely be reading more of his work in the near future.
Feb 04, 2008 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
In 2001 I conversed a bit with Greg Iles through emails and after reading The Quiet Game I told him I was torn between reading 24 Hours or Black Cross next. He told me he felt Black Cross was his best novel, so dilemma solved. Normally I wouldn't pick up this type of novel; wartime
action novels just don't appeal to me from a reading standpoint but I love war movies.
But as you know by now I'm a big fan of Greg Iles so I owed it to myself to read this. It's pretty good. It's about an Allied missio
Nicole Overmoyer
At one point, reading this book, I literally thought "holy crap, this is a good book!" and it really is. Suspense, drama, hints of romance, historical facts ... it's all there.

I didn't want to put the book down and I really didn't want it to be over. Save for two characters, Sturm and Brandt, I felt some affinity to each and every character. I'd never want to be in the places that some of them found themselves, but it was hard not to imagine myself there.

Another fascinating aspect of the book is
Jan 07, 2008 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction
Having enjoyed past books by Greg Iles, the author name and book cover caught my eye. Resting on a table, front and center at Border's gave me the impression it was a new Iles page turner; I was surprised to see it was from the last century.

This is a slice of life story, about a young American doctor working for Britain during WWII. As a pacifist, he is happy doing research, but his unique background make him a prime cadidate for a "behind the lines" last ditch effort to reverse the potential ou
Maureen DeLuca
Apr 25, 2017 Maureen DeLuca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book based on WW II where they tested different gases on people. An intense read for sure. If you have the time it is worth the read. I had a bit of trouble at times, for there was a lot going on in the house at the time- I feel this book needs to be read - just you and the book- no distractions.
aPriL does feral sometimes
Greg Iles is an intelligent and secretly snarky writer. I've read several of his novels and one of his hallmarks for me is that he playfully tweaks the reader in creating heroes out of people who in real life the public despises; for example, criminal hackers who steal money and 40-year-old men who have affairs with high school teens. I call it playful because in most cases I find myself rooting for the good guy narrator to defeat the bad guys, only to realize later after finishing I was rooting ...more
Sep 13, 2014 Johnny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The initial pace of Black Cross is somewhat pedestrian, but the final 100 pages are a rocket sled. Initially, Black Cross seems like a slow-starting mystery set in a historical setting, but it finishes like an action film with historical trappings. The novel posits a fictional concentration camp where realistic medical atrocities are being perpetrated in the name of the advancement of science. Unfortunately, the science to be advanced here would be chemical warfare and the atrocities are committ ...more
Bridget Brewer
May 15, 2014 Bridget Brewer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't even fucking care how shitty I'm supposed to think this novel is. I know there are grammatical errors, I know they all say, "My God, man!" at least 8 times per character, and I know it's super sensationalist... but damn if I didn't spend every waking moment reading this, all the way until the end. Reading this was like eating the appropriate amount of M&Ms - enough that you know it's bad for you, but not so much that you're throwing up. Greg Iles, thank you for some truly unexpected ...more
James Hankins
Nov 21, 2012 James Hankins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not many people I've come across know about this book. I read a lot of thrillers -- and write some of my own -- and BLACK CROSS by Greg Iles is easily one of the best I've ever read. I'd hate to give much away, but the book, which takes place mostly during WWII, has action, suspense, spies and heart. It deals with disturbing subject matter without sensationalizing it. The characters are complex. And here's something I don't often say about a thriller -- I was very moved by this book. I highly re ...more
Mar 28, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, warfare
I could not put this down. Even though the book described some truly horrible things, I could look past them to go along with the story. The author used tension marvelously, building it up, and then performing a reveal or a plot twist, some of which left my jaw on the floor. The climatic battle and immediate aftermath was just vicious, but I did enjoy the resolution. I would have preferred the epilogue to be longer, but I am content with what was there.
Aaron Cochrill
Apr 04, 2017 Aaron Cochrill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book! I struggled with one of his other books, but I couldn't put this one down. You become so attached and involved with the characters that you have to keep going to see what happens next. Most of the truly horrific details are about WW2 and the Holocaust are spared for those who have weak tolerance for that and we get a truly well written story!
Oct 08, 2014 Jacqie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first historical thriller I've read by Greg Iles. I've read some of his modern thrillers and think that he's one of the better writers in that genre. Looking at his bibliography, it looks like Black Cross is his second book. And I think this feels like it was written by an author still learning his craft.

The book is about two men, a Jewish militant and a American pacifist doctor, who are enlisted to go on a secret mission to Germany. They are to procure samples of prototype poison g
Dec 28, 2010 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start this by saying I don't read war stories. My parents lived this and that's enough for me. Luckily they were here in Canada so I know for them it could have been incredibly worse than it was, but my father saw 3 brothers go off to war and only 1 came home and the pain it caused my father and my grandmother was there in their hearts until the day they died. I loved them both dearly and that alone can reduce me to tears, but this is Greg Iles so I made the exception and while in some wa ...more
Rick Fisher
Jan 06, 2014 Rick Fisher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

The very last line written in this remarkable novel states
"Finally, I would ask young readers to realize that fifty years is not a long time." With this one line, Mr. Iles nails the important significance of novels such as "Black Cross".
Although a work of fiction, the atrocities and heroism within the pages of this novel are real. So many people, during this dark period, gave more than todays generation can ever know. It is with works such at this, along with other amazing nonfiction
Apr 28, 2009 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story begins in modern day upon the deaths of a doctor's grandparents. A rabbi comes to the house and begins to tell a tale of how the grandfather, Mark McConnell (Mac), earned a medal during WWII. The story then moves back to take place in WWII as Mac, who is a scientist and a pacifist, teams up with a Jonas Stern, Jewish activist/soldier, to combat the Nazi devlopment of a deadly nerve gas with a commando mission.

The portions of the story that take place inside the concentration camp are b
Sep 21, 2010 Waven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Greg Iles book, so I can't compare it to anything else he's written, but I found it a decent page-turner with good characters and a reasonable premise. A lot of the historical points are truthful, which made the journey more believable, and I think he did a commendable job in both portraying the different factions (Jew, Nazi, Brit, American) and keeping them human. For me, the strongest portions of the book were the very beginning and the afterword, which contained the clearest ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Jeni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story was quite a ride. Briefly, it tells how an American doctor/scientist and a German Jew partner together to stop a Nazi poison gas attack against the D-Day Allied troops. But I have to say that it seemed more than that. It seemed very realistic when everything kept going wrong and nothing was going according to plan. It felt like it could have been a true story. There was a lot of suspense. I'm not really good with suspense; if this had been a movie I would've covered my eyes at some pa ...more
Dec 03, 2012 LindaJ^ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, audio
Went to NYC for 24 hours and did a lot of walking. This was the first title on my i-Touch so it was the book of choice for the walk from Penn Station to West 57th Street. And, it was such a thriller, I kept listening until it was finished on Sunday AM!

Black Cross is the story of two men - one an American medical doctor and chemist; the other a Jewish resistance fighter - who are "convinced" (using rather nefarious means) by a British general (and Churchill) to undertake a 2-man mission to stop t
Dec 04, 2011 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't put this book down; 625 pages of intense action. The story is part truth and part fiction. Truth: The Nazi's created Tabun in 1936, Sarin in 1938 and Soman in 1944.

In 1944 (in our fiction story) Churchill tried to get the US to agree to a show by demonstration to Hitler that we too had the poison gases. The US declined.

The British had stolen a small sample of Sarin; snuck it out of Germany and then re-developed it at Oxford University. Himmler wanted to use their gas to wipe out the
Beth Mcgarity
Feb 13, 2011 Beth Mcgarity rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book, telling the fictional story of an unassuming physician who risks everything to thwart WWII Germany's attempt to develop and deploy a powerful, never-before-seen chemical weapon. He must infiltrate Germany's death machine to complete a nearly impossible mission, knowing his death is almost inevitable even if he can. The story has many twists and turns as serious problems arise with the mission, leaving the reader wondering, doubting if the mission will prove successful, and ...more
Rob Osment
Jan 14, 2017 Rob Osment rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this novel and was significantly better than the previous book I read by this author, Spandau Phoenix.

This novel weaves a thrilling and sometimes harrowing story around the threat of chemical weapons in world war 2 and the horrific tests carried out by the Nazis in concentration camps. The story, whilst a little far fetched at times, is gripping and based around historical fact as well as some poetic licence applied by the novelist.

I loved all the different settings and environm
Nancy Ellis
Feb 20, 2016 Nancy Ellis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew I was going to love this book. I think Iles is a terrific writer and have thoroughly enjoyed almost all of his previous books. The setting of this book is my favorite setting in time and place: World War II in Europe, particularly Germany in 1944, featuring a concentration camp inmates and staff, German and Polish Resistance fighters, and a secret mission by an American pacifist chemist and a seasoned veteran of the Haganah determined to destroy the Nazi development of chemical warfare. W ...more
May 18, 2010 Angie rated it it was amazing
This book grabbed my attention from the very first chapter. I knew it would be a good book...but after the riveting chapter 1 it does take a little while to get the characters all figured out and determine exactly what is going on....but don't give up. It is so worth it in the end. This was a book I couldn't put down. The characters are well developed. The plot is well thought out. I loved the very last line of the ackowldgements at the end where Iles says for the younger generations to remember ...more
Jan 16, 2014 Neil rated it it was amazing
You know that you are reading a good book when you would rather read than sleep or eat. I found this book to be well researched, the characters well developed and a cracking plot line. The intensity never seemed to waver, although the situations were varied. Despite this being a WWII story line it is not the usual blood and guts type of book, but it is the type of book which I would love to see adapted into a film. I have made a note of the author's name and I shall be looking out for more of hi ...more
Nov 11, 2010 Jayne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read many Holocaust novels. Although this one was far from my favorite (not my favorite Isles either, for that matter), the moral issue he struggles with - is deeply disturbing and moving. In school we used to do an activity for values clarification - you can only put 5 people in a life boat. Whom will you choose? This is at the heart of Isles's novel as well as the time honored war time struggle - to sacrifice a few to save many. Those pronouns - few and many - just lose their humanity!
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Thoughts on this book? 5 26 Dec 19, 2012 07:31AM  
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Greg Iles was born in Germany in 1960. He grew up in Natchez, Mississippi, and graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1983. He was active in a band called "Frankly Scarlet", but quit after realizing that the touring lifestyle was not conducive with his family life. Once no longer busy with the band, he turned his attention to writing.

Greg's novels have been translated into various languag
More about Greg Iles...

Other Books in the Series

World War Two (2 books)
  • Spandau Phoenix (World War Two #2)

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“He had never seen such eyes before, not even in the faces of soldiers unmanned in the midst of great carnage. Eyes like black mirrors, at once shallow and bottomless. He had the feeling that if he pressed his finger to one of those eyes, it would shatter and fall inward through a black cavern of grief and loss that could never be filled.” 0 likes
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