This World War II era spy thriller is cast in London, where MI5 and the Germans have infiltrated each other's spy networks, double agents everywhere, turned and turned again. In the few days prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl harbor, Tom Wall, an American who has joined the British forces, is convinced to impersonate his brother, Earl, who has disappeared.
Earl Wall is a critical contact for Sondegger, a Nazi spy recently captured in London. Tom's only desire is to locate his brother, who he believes has betrayed Tom's unit in Crete, causing the deaths of countless soldiers. But Earl remains elusive, a cipher who cannot be found. If Tom has to cooperate with MI5 and tolerate Sondegger to get to his brother, so be it. At their first contact, Sondegger makes it clear to Tom that he knows he is not Earl. Still distracted by painful injuries and excessive medication, Tom keeps this critical information from the Brits, unsure what to do with this knowledge, but unwilling to lose his temporary autonomy. Meanwhile, yet another power player in the vast spy network has plans of his own for Tom and sends out two thugs to detain and question Tom Wall.
London is a cesspool of nefarious activity during this period, opposing factions meeting secretly to further their private agendas, the Germans as rigorous as the English, the stakes far too high for the losing side, each group driven by intense patriotism and allegiance. Sondegger is savage and unpredictable, taken captive on his own terms with a secret mission in mind. No matter what the precautions, the Brits continually underestimate his cunning. The German keeps his own counsel, planting hints of Earl's whereabouts to Tom, but engineering his own plan, in which Tom Wall plays a central part. The characters play out their roles, mere days before Pearl Harbor, a race against time with thousands of lives at stake. Tom is the pawn of all the players, Sondegger, Earl's, his wife, Harriet, MI5 and the OSS, but Tom is ignorant of his part, instinctively pursuing his brother for a moment of truth.
The author frames his story flawlessly, building the tension with each chapter as the operatives act out each minute detail of an ingenious plot. Time and place is perfectly rendered in a harrowing tale that is impossible to put down until all unravels in a burst of violence. Shadowed and menacing, Ross delivers a powerful rendition of a war-torn country riddled with spies, murderous fascists and an idealistic man tormented by the senseless waste of his troops, determined to mete out justice, regardless of the personal cost. Evil geniuses and patriotic heroes dance a macabre tango towards oblivion, where bombs light up the night sky and Americans watch pensively, unaware of the great conflagration soon to hit a quiet Hawaiian naval base. Luan Gaines/2005.