Friday, November 20, 2020

The Arms Maker of Berlin: Dan Fesperman

Description from the book's dust jacket:

This powerfully suspenseful new novel from Dan Fesperman takes us deep into the early 1940s in Switzerland and Germany as it traces the long reach of the wartime intrigues of the White Rose student movement, which dared to speak out against Hitler.

When Nat Turnbull, a history professor who specializes in the German resistance, gets the news that his estranged mentor, Gordon Wolfe, has been arrested for possession of stolen World War II archives, he’s hardly surprised that, even at the age of eighty-four, Gordon has gotten himself in trouble. But what’s in the archives is staggering: a spymaster’s trove missing since the end of the war, one that Gordon has always claimed is full of “secrets you can’t find anywhere else . . . live ammunition.”

This book is a mixture of adventure novel and spy thriller. History professor Nat Turnbull gets mixed up with the FBI when his former mentor is arrested for stealing important documents. Initially, I had a bit of a problem with the FBI sending a professor to investigate for them, but they needed an expert to examine the papers and interpret them, and they do keep tabs on him. And pay his travel expenses. The story begins in New York, moves to the National Archives in Washington, DC, then to Berlin, Germany and Bern, Switzerland and back to the US, in Florida.There are many surprises along the way that connect back to Gordon Wolfe's role in intelligence in Switzerland towards the end of the war.

The novel includes a second storyline set during World War II, related to the secrets in the papers that are missing, possibly stolen by Gordon. Kurt Bauer's family owned an armaments firm that is important to the war effort. Kurt is in his teens and falls in love with a young woman active in the White Rose resistance group. He is torn between his loyalty to his family and his desire to keep his girlfriend safe.

I loved this book; it did have a slow start, but there is lots of action towards the end. I like dual timelines, and the topic, World War II secrets and spies, was perfect for me. The ending was fantastic.

I am submitting this book for Switzerland in the European Reading Challenge because a major theme in this book is the espionage and international intrigue in Switzerland during World War II, especially the later years of the war.


Publisher:   Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
Length:       367 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Settings:     US, Germany, Switzerland
Genre:        Spy thrilller
Source:       On my TBR pile since 2010.


Rick Robinson said...

I'm really enjoying that you're posting more often, and interesting books and topics! THANKS!

TracyK said...

Thanks, Rick. It is keeping me busy, but I am enjoying it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sounds good, Tracy.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'd have trouble believing the FBI would consult a professor in that way, too, Tracy. But they do use experts at times, and I can see how they might be interested in his expertise for this specific case. And that plot point of the 'everyman' being drawn into an international espionage/adventure story can be really interesting. It sounds as though the characters are drawn well, too - a big 'plus' for me. Glad you enjoyed it.

TracyK said...

Patti, I usually like stories related to WWII and I learned more about Switzerland during the war, so that was a bonus.

TracyK said...

Margot, this was only borderline spy fiction since the main characters were not agents, but like a lot of spy fiction, there were areas where one has to suspend disbelief. I was fine with that though. And yes, most of the characters were fully developed.

Katrina said...

Thanks, this one sounds right up my street, and I didn't know about it.

TracyK said...

Katrina, this is only the second book I have read by Dan Fesperman and I liked both of them. The other one was set in Bosnia. I have four more of his books and will be reading those sometime soon.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

This sounds like a wonderful story. Glad you enjoyed it so much!

CLM said...

This sounds very Anthony Price-ish so I am not surprised you liked it! I will check my library.

TracyK said...

It was, Deb, and I look forward to more books by him.

TracyK said...

I hope that it is easy to find Fesperman's books at your library, Constance. And yes it is like an Anthony Price story.