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The Arms Maker of Berlinby Dan Fesperman
Synopses & Reviews
The biggest hazard of studying history, Nat Turnbull once told his wife, is that if you spend too much time looking backward, you'll be facing the wrong way when the forces of the here and now roll forward to crush you.
As if to prove the point, his wife filed for divorce the following week, catching Nat completely by surprise. Five years later he was again facing the wrong way, so to speak, when a pair of phone calls summoned him urgently back to the dangers of the present. He was three stories underground at the time, asleep at his desk in the stacks of the university library. An unlikely location, perhaps, for the beginning of an adventure in which lives would be lost, but Nat was trained to appreciate that sort of irony.
The first call arrived just as a dark dream of another era goose-stepped across his brain. His cell phone jolted him awake, squirming in his pocket like a frog. Opening his eyes to utter darkness, Nat realized he must have slept past closing hour. It wasn't the first time. He kept a flashlight for these emergencies, but it seemed to have disappeared. No use groping for the lamp, either. Security would have cut the power by now. Library budgets weren't what they used to be at Wightman University.
The phone twitched again as he fumbled in his pocket. He was addled, groggy, a miner regaining consciousness after a cave-in. What time was it? What day? What century? Mandatory question in his line of work. Nat was a history professor. Specialty: Modern Germany. At Wightman that covered everything from the Weimar Republic of 1919 onward, and while Nat was in love with the sweep and grandeur of the whole era, neither friend nor foe was under any illusion as to his true calling. He remained as thoroughly haunted by the long shadow of the Third Reich as those Hitler-centric folks on the History Channel. In Nat's treasure hunts, X never marked the spot. A swastika did, or some pile of old bones. Dig at risk of contamination.
He snicked open the phone, and the blue glow offered a beacon of hope until he saw the incoming number. Gordon Wolfe, his onetime master and commander, calling at 1:04 a.m., meant Nat was about to be subjected to an angry tirade or a teary confessional, and either would likely be served in a marinade of French cognac and Kentucky bourbon. He answered with a vague sense of stage fright.
“No, it's Viv. Gordon’s in jail. You have to get up here.”
“Jail? What's happened?
They took him away. Him and some archives. They took everything.”
“Gordon’s archives? All of them? Where are you, Viv?
Blue Kettle Lake. Our summer place.”
The Adirondacks. Of course. That was where the old Minotaur always retreated when the going got tough, and lately the going had been unbearable.
The police handcuffed him the moment we walked in the door. You'd have thought he was John Dillinger. They're saying he stole it, that he stole everything, which is nuts.
Stole what, Viv? Slow down. Start at the beginning.”
By now the phone light had switched off. Nat, sole survivor of the European Research Collection, again sat in the darkness of carrel C-19 in the basement stacks of Hartsell Library. He had often boasted he could find his way out of here blindfolded. Ton
An unflinching thriller from Dan Fesperman that takes us deep into the White Rose resistance movement during World War II.
When Nat Turnbull's mentor, Gordon Wolfe, isarrested for possession of a missing WWII secret service archive and then turns up dead in jail, Nat's quiet academic life is suddenly thrown into tumult. The archive is a time bomb of sensitive material, but keydocuments are still missing, and the FBI dispatches Nat to track them down. Following a trail of cryptic clues, Nat's journeys to Germany, where he soon crosses paths with Berta, a gorgeous and mysterious student and KurtBauer, an arms billionaire with a dark past. As their tales intersect, long-buried exploits of deceit emerge, and each step becomes more dangerous than the last.
From the TradePaperback edition.
'Intelligent thriller' is almost an oxymoron . . . Which may be why novels like Dan Fesperman's are so rare . . . Fesperman just can't help drawing on his experience as a journalist covering foreign conflicts. And that experience puts the meat on the intricate bone structure of his thriller plots. You come away from a Fesperman novel not only abuzz with the exhilaration of the chase, but also aware that you've absorbed something of the complexity of the world's conflicts . . . Fesperman's characters in The Arms Maker of Berlin, particularly Bauer, are smartly imagined and subtly drawn.
--San Francisco Chronicle
A smoothly accelerating thriller . . . Fesperman is a skillful, unpretentious writer who deftly incorporates his extensive knowledge of the period.
— Boston Globe
Well-crafted entertainment that also delivers complex truths about warfare and survival.
Fesperman convincingly evokes the fraying Reich in 1944 . . . Readers who like a bit of history with their thrills will be thoroughly satisfied.
Fesperman writes well. His characters are believable, and the strong and credible plot will specially appeal to fans of World War II espionage fiction.
This one is definitely not your out-of-the-box spy caper, thus highly recommended . . . In the jaded world of the post-modern spy novel, there are no good guys or bad guys, no black or white--just a thousand shades of gray. This combination of anomie and espionage can get tiresome after awhile, but in Fesperman's newest novel, he spices things up.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Dan Fesperman’s travels as a writer have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. Lie in the Dark won the Crime Writers’ Association of Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won their Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, and The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers. He lives in Baltimore.
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