Friday, December 23, 2011

William Brown's "Amongst My Enemies"

I’m not a fan of movies or books about World War II. And I don’t normally read espionage thrillers. So I approached William Brown’s Amongst My Enemies with something akin to hesitation, because it’s a novel about World War II and its aftermath and Cold War espionage. But I had read and reviewed Brown’s novel The Undertaker and really liked it, so I thought I would overcome my usual reluctance and read this new one.

I’d forgotten how much I could enjoy a good story, even if it is about subjects I don’t usually read. And Amongst My Enemies is one good, nail biting story.

Michael Randall and Eddie Hodges are part of the American crew flying in a B-17 bomber. The plane is hit after a bombing run over Berlin; Randall and Hodges are the only crew members to survive. They’re eventually taken prisoner and find themselves part of a prisoner labor gang in the east Prussian city of Konigsberg. Hodges gets frostbite which leads to gangrene; he convinces his friend to help him kill himself and extracts a promise: Randall has to survive and tell Hodges’ family what happened – and the horror of Nazi Germany.

Randall’s group of prisoners is forced to load a U-boat with all kinds of odd-shaped boxes – a U-boat reconstructed to carry cargo instead of torpedos. The operation is under the supervision of an SS officer, Heniz Kruger, who reports directly to Nazi chieftain Martin Bormann. What’s inside the boxes is to be shipped to Argentina. Among his other qualities, Kruger enjoys killing people.

Randall is able to hide out on the U-boat but is found once the submarine is underway. The captain, “the last decent man in Germany’s military,” has Randall placed in a rubber dingy off the coast of Sweden. Minutes later, the U-boat is bombed and sunk by British fighter planes.

The shell-shocked American spends the next three years with the Swedish fish boat captain who plucks him from the Baltic. And then he returns to the United States to keep his promise to his friend.

I provide that detailed background because it sets the stage for what unfolds over the next four years. What Michael Randall knows about that U-boat will become of critical importance to the New York police, the new Israeli government, the Russians, the CIA and a very much alive Martin Bormann, who didn’t die as reported in the final days of Hitler’s Berlin. Bormann is very much alive in Bolivia – and has an able assistant named Heinz Kruger. And Bormann wants his U-boat.

Brown has done an enormous amount of research in writing this novel, from the details of a U-boat interior and the fishing industry in Sweden to Nazi politics and legends and underwater salvage operations. The novel is a fast, exciting read – the author excels at keeping the reader both gasping for air and reading on.

I still may not be a fan of World War II and espionage novels, but I am becoming a fan of William Brown. Amongst My Enemies is a highly entertaining novel.


My review of Brown’s The Undertaker.

Brown's web site.


Louise Gallagher said...

Ooooh -- you've just given me a gift idea for C.C.'s stocking -- he loves this kind of read. Thanks!

caryjo said...

It's interesting and historical, which catches my attention. Keep it in mind for my husband. You're quite a reader and reporter.