From Publishers Weekly
Set in 1923, Satterthwait's third mystery featuring Pinkerton agents Jane Turner and Phil Beaumont doesn't work as well as its predecessors (Escapade
), in part because the subject matter, an investigation into a failed attempt on the life of a young Adolf Hitler, clashes with Beaumont's witty asides and the burgeoning romance between the two sleuths. The couple travel to Germany after a shot is fired at Hitler during a clandestine meeting between the Nazi leader and a prominent army figure in Berlin, but the myriad plots and counterplots, as well as the official police inquiry, only muddy the waters. Turner finds herself falling for a purported psychic, while Nazi Party figures bombard Beaumont with evidence pointing to a Communist plot. Despite the impressive history reading list Satterthwait cites in the acknowledgments, his Führer is underdeveloped and too close to a caricature. The solution comes as an anticlimactic afterthought. (Those seeking a better-plotted and more atmospheric mystery involving Nazis should seek out Darwin Teilhet's gripping The Talking Sparrow Murders
.) Though Turner is less well-developed than her partner, they make an engaging pair who would be better served by a return to adventures with historical figures such as Hemingway and Houdini. (Feb. 10)
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Pinkerton agents Jane Turner and Philip Beaumont have just finished another difficult assignment abroad; now the office is sending them to Germany. Their job: to find the assassin who almost succeeded in killing Adolf Hitler when he was in Berlin. Their first surprise is a pleasant one---the Nazi big shot assigned to be their guide, Ernst (Putzi) Hanfstaengl, is a huge, jovial man who amazes his guests immediately; his English is almost without any accent! Hanfstaengl has learned American ways during his student days at Harvard. He is a talented pianist and as friendly as a puppy. Jane and Phil have no reason to think his fellow Nazis are not just as personable. This isn`t going to be so bad. Everything starts to go downhill after that, however, although a handsome Nazi almost turns Jane`s head with his attentions. Their job becomes a questionable one as the agents see more and more of the new party`s dreadful face. A woman who gives them some information is found murdered. There are other deaths, all clearly connected to the Nazi Party. By the time Jane and Phil meet Hitler, they are not only horrified and puzzled about why the Pinkerton agency accepted the job, they are very aware that they are in danger themselves. Walter Satterthwait has uncannily taken his readers to the Germany of 1923, introducing them to characters from the actual front pages of the period`s newspapers---Hanfstaengl, Rudolf Hess, and many others. As in the previous two books of this series, the crimes that Turner and Beaumont encounter are committed against a genuinely historical background. It all adds up to a suspenseful story of two likable people at risk in the treacherous atmosphere of Germany`s postwar nightmare.