This book struck me as rather similar to 'The Day of the Jackal'. They were international thrillers that made a few tweaks to history to serve an exciThis book struck me as rather similar to 'The Day of the Jackal'. They were international thrillers that made a few tweaks to history to serve an exciting new history and encompassed a wide range of characters. However, where 'The Day of the Jackal' failed because I had already seen the movie, my ignorance of this movie helped keep the book's tension ratcheted up. And really, that is the most appealing part of this book: the tension. What plans will go awry, how will small, seemingly insignificant, events impact the much greater flow of history, who will live or die kept me heavily engaged with the story. In 'The Day of the Jackal' these questions had already been answered for me because of the movies. In this case I was genuinely concerned that at any point the the alleged protagonist could be killed and one of the other characters would pick up where he left off. Really riveting stuff.
The story follows a young German journalist who stumbles across an account of a recently deceased Jewish concentration camp survivor who was convinced his camp's overseer (who was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths) was still alive and prospering in post-war 1960's Germany. Thus starts a hunt for Odessa that has significant repercussions on the international stage all nicely folded into the flow of actual history.
What I really enjoyed about this book is how every character had their own motivations and pursued them. Even people on ostensibly the same side had their own agendas and were more than happy to use their erstwhile allies to achieve them even if that meant screwing said allies over or getting them killed. It was also refreshing to see the bad guys actually be competent but also constrained by circumstances. These were all not powerful Nazis who turn out to be incompetent (you've got to have some smarts to outlast the Kennedy administration while being hunted internaitonally) but rather a highly organized network of fanatics who faced the same sort of technological and informational constraints a everyone else.
It was a pretty even match-up throughout the book which nicely contributed to the book's tension. The use of multiple characters; points of view was also deftly utilized to give the reader a greater context for the events of the book and raise the stakes above the simple hunt for an ex-Nazi officer. It was great to see why all these myriad characters were acting as they did and it really enriched the story.
While there were a lot of characters there wasn't really a ton of characterization. Like 'The Day of the Jackal' Forsyth gave plenty of background history to the important characters he introduced, but apart from the Journalist we don't really get a deep dive on any other characters. This is fine by me because the suspense of the story kept me turning pages instead of the characters and the Journalist pulled enough character development weight to carry that aspect of the story.
This is a great read for anyone who enjoys thrillers, historical fiction, or WWII history. I have a feeling that, if 'The Day of the Jackal' is any guide, seeing the movie ahead of time will significantly degrade the experience, so read the book first....more