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Fear Itself: A Novel Hardcover – October 25, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover (October 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1468300725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1468300727
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,414,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Young FBI agent Jimmy Nessheim is assigned to go undercover in the German American Bund in 1936. The assignment ignores J. Edgar Hoover’s narrow focus on Communists, labor unions, and jazz musicians and violates Hoover’s edict that FBI agents do not work undercover. Harry Guttman, the Jewish FBI agent who makes the assignment, knows he’s risking his career and possibly Nessheim’s life. But Nessheim’s time in the Bund helps Guttman piece together a serious Nazi threat to the life of Franklin Roosevelt, which leads to another undercover assignment for Nessheim, this time in the White House. This is the first novel in a series projected to cover 1936 through World War II, and Rosenheim paints a disturbingly vivid portrait of the U.S. riven by the Great Depression, political conflicts, and concerns about looming war in Europe. The rumpled, intelligent Guttman is a compelling character who shrugs off the pervasive anti-Semitism he encounters in his fellow FBI agents. The Nazi plot is convoluted but effectively maintains tension, and Rosenheim’s picture of pre-WWII America is riveting. --Thomas Gaughan

Review

"A stirring successor to Frederick Forsyth...a superlative thriller."
(- The Independent)

"An elegant political thriller written with style and skill."
(- Daily Mail)

"An intriguing story, well told."
(- Literary Review)

"Fear Itself has very much the feel of a film noir, with plenty of post-Depression grit, intrigue, FBI politics, scheming socialites, eleventh-hour escapes, red herrings, dubious characters, and a general sense that nobody can be trusted. And if Nessheim is clueless at crucial times, if coincidences tend to happen, if a few threads are left hanging--still the vividly detailed setting, a tight pace, and well-researched glimpses of Hoover and William Stephenson provide an atmospheric and entertaining read."
(--Historical Novel Society)

"[A] top-notch historical thriller…this intelligent page-turner will only whet reader’s appetites for more."
(Publishers Weekly (starred review))

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Quixote010 VINE VOICE on March 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Enthusiasts of WWII history will find this to be an engaging novel regarding events prior to 1941. As the Bund (German-American extremists) intermingled with rogue factions intent on removing FDR, Hoover's FBI struggled with issues of organization and identity. Should the FBI be concerned more about the growing socialist movement, international espionage, or will we be drawn into a war by England?

Fear Itself is a well-written novel that captures issues of the era, particularly those involving the identity struggles of replaced Germans adapting America while still having old country loyalties. With the inclusion of several historical personages and events of the time, the book makes for an enjoyable and fast-moving read. I particularly liked the development of the main character Jimmy Nessheim and he may be a reappearing hero for this author.

This book doesn't have the depth of a John LeCarre spy thriller, but it is historically interesting and fits together well. On a side note, I was surprised to discover several editing errors (spelling errors and misplaced words). Those, however, are publisher's mistakes that shouldn't distract from the author's efforts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G70 VINE VOICE on March 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
It is easy to dismiss any story in which Nazis are the antagonists as a bit too cliched. But Mr. Rosenheim paints in finer brushstrokes than many, providing the reader a compelling plotline, befitting the label of "thriller," but also allowing the reader to speculate as to the purity of motives of most everyone involved in the story.

The story itself centers largely on the frustrations of a hapless F.B.I. man in the pre-war confusion of Washington. Agent Nessheim performs as a cog in a machine of plot, counter-plot, and political power. His German roots contrast with his mission of pursuing Nazi sympathizers; he is very human and portrayed very much as of the prewar era. The invention of this individual balances nicely against the larger international and political forces of the time; as historical fiction, the story seems to take relatively few liberties with historical events.

I picked this book up on the assumption that is was light "airplane reading" -- the sort of semi-mindless read that would fill the time endured in a cross-country coach seat. Such an appraisal was, quite frankly, an underestimation. While "Fear Itself" accomplishes that task, it is a bit more serious. It demands a bit more attention than the average thriller: that is a compliment, not a complaint. Still, it is an enjoyable read, and even a bit more rated "PG" than most in the category.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Jackson on February 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Step back and immerse yourself in the era that was the lead up to WWII. A compelling hero character moves at the highest levels of German power machine. With part of the novel set in Michigan and other regions of the U.S., when I finished this book I wished for a sequel. Fear Itself is a great story, exceptionally well woven and beautifully written.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Brodie on January 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed the book's accurate picture of the late 1930's in the US. Also I like the fact that the character actions and motivations seemed to be quite realistic and believable. Not too much coincidence to make things work out in the plot.

The author has written a wonderful first novel. I'm looking forward to the sequel.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Star @ The Bibliophilic Book Blog on November 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
`Fear Itself' takes the reader into a tumultuous time in American history: the late 1930s before the start of World War II. Even thought America's a melting pot, there were many who held tightly to their cultural beliefs and practices. Most especially are the Germans immigrants who are supporters of Hitler during his rise to power. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still fledgling organization, headed by J. Edgar Hoover, and green Special Agent Jimmy Nessheim only wants to make a difference. Being the child of German immigrants, he is particularly sensitive to these issues and the perfect candidate to go uncover into the `Bund'. The Bund is a German-American group with branches all over the US who are up to a lot more than sharing recipes for schnitzel. As Nessheim digs further, he finds there is way more than meets the eye to this group and they have connections even into the heart of Washington, D.C. `Fear Itself' is great semi-alternate historical fiction. I've always been fascinated by this time period and Mr. Rosenheim makes it come alive with his acute attention to detail. The characters are definitely products of their time and the novel includes historical figures, such as J. Edgar Hoover, interacting with the fictional characters. I enjoyed every step along the path with Special Agent Nessheim as he raced to unweave the tangled web of intrigue.
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