"Book lovers never go to bed alone"
This review was written by David McMahon, a member of the Tuesday Evening Book Club.
Set in Berlin at the time of the 1936 Olympics, this novel is about a professional hitman who is smuggled to Berlin with the US athletes, with a mission to assassinate the architect of Germany's covert rearmament program. Arrested for murder in New York, Paul Schumann is given a choice by the Office of Naval Intelligence; face trial and probable execution at the hands of the NY prosecutor, or accept the mission in Germany with a not much better chance of survival.
Deaver, the author of "The Bone Collector" , creates the atmosphere of Berlin after Hitler's rise, with Gestapo, the SS, the SA "Brown shirts" and the city police pursing their separate agendas, while intersecting at various crime scenes. There is a climate of fear among persecuted minorities, including Jews, gypsies, Social democrats and communists, the latter because they opposed the rise of National Socialism. Summary "justice" is meted out by the roaming Brown Shirts to people from these groups, with no accountability. The hero is being pursued by both city police (the "Kripo") and the security forces, the former for a murder soon after his arrival, and the latter because of a tip-off has gone to the SS that he is on a hostile mission. The novel traverses the issue of good men and women confronted by evil, how they variously respond to it, and the question of ends and means. The skilful police inspector Kohl pursues Schumann for the murder, while trying to avoid the means employed by the Nazis around him, who he largely despises.
The novel develops characters and plot well, and is a page-turner for the first 300 pages, but falls into disarray in the climactic scences, where the action and events defy credibility. The assassin moves safely among and near the leaders of the Third Reich, who are surrounded by the deadly and efficient SS, kills serveral and manages to escape several times in the most improbable way. Even when betrayed by his minders, he continues to pursue his "mission", which develops into a personal quest to eliminate some of the evil-doers.
The author had carefully crafted an interesting and critical scenario, with all the actors in place, and then could not find a satisfactory resolution of the tensions and objectives of the players. Overall, while well-written and easily readable, it is ultimately unsatisfying.