Carol's Reviews > The Quest for Anna Klein: An Otto Penzler Book

The Quest for Anna Klein by Thomas H. Cook
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's review
Apr 29, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction

A couple of reasons I picked up The Quest for Anna Klein

I have read Thomas H. Cook before and have liked what I've read.
I heard an interview with Thomas H. Cook and he thinks this book is one of his best including history, sweep, characterization and atmosphere.
I love the cover with its Union Cases, picture of Hitler on the left and perhaps, Anna Klein on the right.

If you are strictly a mystery fan, I'd say don't read The Quest for Anna Klein.
If you are a thriller fan I'd say skip The Quest for Anna Klein.
If you love spy novels, maybe The Quest for Anna Klein would fit the bill.

It's not that The Quest for Anna Klein is not a mystery as it has those elements but not in the cozy sense or the crime/police procedural vein.
It's not that The Quest for Anna Klein is not a thriller as it definitely is, but if you're looking for quick, non-stop, snappy suspense, this is not going to thrill you.

Thomas H. Cook has won the Edgar and other awards for mystery writing but he doesn't subscribe to the McDonald's happy meal comfort zone, where what you got the last time will be what you get this time. He has written a series but decided the same ol' is not for him. He says he likes to write stories that are about moral crisis and I think you'll get that here.

The Quest for Anna Klein stands alone and stands alone quite well. It is a multi-layered story with a complicated plot and you are going to have to work but it's worth your time and effort. The story opens in 2001, a few months after America's wake up call September 11th. Thomas Danforth, an importer in his nineties has summoned Paul Crane, a young man from Washington with high expectations and ideas on how to respond to 9/11, for an interview he promises will change this young man's view of the world as he knows it. Switching back and forth from 1939 to present day, Danforth unfolds a tale of an anti-Nazi conspiracy called The Project. Danforth agrees to allow his Connecticut home to be used as a training base for a woman, Anna Klein, a gifted linguist. Anna is being trained as assassin and spy. Captivated by Anna from the get go, Danforth follows her to Europe and here the plot expands, taking on on a life of its own. As Crane interviews Danforth in the New York of 2001, we are continually swept back to 1939 and the happenings of that time and the fate of Anna.

Thomas H. Cook is a thoughtful writer and there are some excellent quotes, even when take out of context. Consider:

Danforth view of what Anna must think of him "What a prissy little wedding cake figure of a man she must think him, he decided, she who would be on the front one while he remained in America, having brandies at his club, his life compared with hers almost grotesquely free of care".

Danforth to Paul as he massages an ache in his knee (New York City 2011) "In memory most people come and go," he said. "But a few leave parts of themselves inside you." He released his leg and drew back. "Like shrapnel."

This last quote sums up my feelings of this book:

"He wanted me to know that he had something on his mind. He wanted me to be curious about what it was. It's the simplest way to draw someone into a plot. You make them want to know what you know."

And so Thomas H. Cook has...given me an inkling of a story, made me curious and drew me in to his web. He asks that you give a new author a chance. If you've never read Thomas H. Cook before, please do.

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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Trish (new) - added it

Trish good job on that review, Carol.

Carol Thank you Trish!

message 3: by Chris (new)

Chris Great review as always, Carol! I've never heard of Thomas H. Cook before, so I'm going to scope him out next time I'm at the library! :-)

Carol Great Chris!

message 5: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Your review makes me want to read this one! I've only read one other book by Thomas Cook, but it was quite awhile ago.

Carol Cheryl wrote: "Your review makes me want to read this one! I've only read one other book by Thomas Cook, but it was quite awhile ago."

Cheryl, Do you recall which you read? Even though I'm a thriller reader and usually like a story that moves quickly, there's something about Cook's style that I have always liked.

Red Leaves which won a Barry and perhaps some other awards sounds like it presents the moral dilemma that had been the topic of a couple of popular books as of late. Red Leaves is about a young man, Keith who babysits an eight year old neighbor. The next morning the girl is missing and Keith is suspect. The father must decide if his son is innocent. I haven't read this but it does sound right up my alley. Just need to find time to work it in...

I had to look up The Barry Award, given by Deadly Pleasures, a fiction crime publication. The award is named after Barry Gardner, a critic.

message 7: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Hi Carol,
Yes, I read Red Leaves and enjoyed that one. It did present a moral dilemma for the father in the story. A twist at the end as well. Very good. I also read an earlier book by him called The Chatham School Affair. It was a dark story. Sad. But interesting.

message 8: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Oh, I just noticed that I said I'd only read one other by Cook, but it was actually two!! I had forgotten about the Chatham School Affair.

Carol Chatham School was the first I read and quite a long time ago. I remember feeling much as you, dark, simmering and held my attention. I became a fan then but as with many authors that I like, I haven't read all their books.

Hope to read Red Leaves soon.

Cindi Your review echoes my thoughts to a 't'. I've been reading Thomas H Cook's books for over 20 years - almost all of them. I've loved his stories, right from the start. He writes thoughtfully, full of feeling. I have never, ever figured out the ending before the end (like most other mysteries I read). His mysteries are really mysteries of the human heart. There is always a moral dilemma and a bit of social commentary. My favorite Thomas H Cook book is "Breakheart Hill". I've almost finished "...Anna Klein". When I am done, I'll be on my way to another :) Btw, I once wrote him a letter to say how much I love his books..and he wrote me back: a handwritten letter!!!

Carol Cindi wrote: "Your review echoes my thoughts to a 't'. I've been reading Thomas H Cook's books for over 20 years - almost all of them. I've loved his stories, right from the start. He writes thoughtfully, ful..."
Read your comments with great interest and loved that Thomas H. Cook wrote you a handwritten letter. I'll bet this is a keepsake.

Cindi Yes ~ I still have it :) This was in 2001.

Carol Cindi wrote: "Yes ~ I still have it :) This was in 2001."


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