meets the best of John Grisham in this tremendously exciting and moving new thriller, about a murder trial inside a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. John Katzenbach has taken elements of his own father's history in such a camp, added a racial twist (the defendant is a black pilot, a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen), and created a memorable adventure story that soars with hope and cries out to be filmed.
The first thing that former law student Tommy Hart does after his B-25 is shot down and he--the only survivor--is captured, is to fill out a form for the International Red Cross, telling his family he's alive and requesting, under "Special Items Needed," a copy of Edmund's Principles of Common Law. Amazingly, the book is waiting when he arrives at Stalag Luft Thirteen in the Bavarian woods. Hart soon puts it to good use, defending (with the help of two other prisoners, a former London barrister and a Canadian police detective) the prickly, proud Lieutenant Lincoln Scott when he is charged with killing a racist and corrupt fellow prisoner. The Nazis, especially a resident SS observer, have their own reasons for wanting the trial to be seen as a fair one, and it takes place against the backdrop of a planned mass escape.
Katzenbach deftly balances a dozen major characters with credible scenes of legal and extra-legal action. His previous thrillers, available in paperback, include Day of Reckoning, In the Heat of the Summer, Just Cause, The Shadow Man, State of Mind, and The Traveler. --Dick Adler
From Publishers Weekly
Vivid and unpredictable characters and diabolically imagined suspense distinguish Katzenbach's (The Shadow Man) seventh novel. Set in the desperately bleak landscape of a German POW compound during the latter days of WWII, this is a thriller with more on its mind than entertainment, as Katzenbach tackles the theme of racial bias that breeds explosive consequences. Held captive since 1942, 2nd Lt. Tommy Hart?ex-Harvard Law student and navigator on an ill-fated B-25?is one of the most senior POWs at Stalag Luft 13 when African-American 1st Lt. Lincoln Scott, P-51 pilot, arrives as a new prisoner in May of 1944. Abrasively antisocial, lone-wolf Scott isolates himself from the other American officers, and quickly becomes the target of racial hatred from oft-decorated, Mississippi-born Capt. Vincent Bedford, aka "Trader Vic"?a treacherous wheeler-dealer who will barter anything to friend or enemy alike. He is soon found in the latrine with his throat cut and Hart is appointed to defend the obvious suspect, Scott, against what seems to be his impending rendezvous with a firing squad. Facing almost hopeless odds, Hart enlists the aid of two British POWs with astute forensic credentials. Slowly, a pattern of deceit begins to take shape, revealing duplicity from both POWs and captors. Katzenbach's setting is flawlessly grim, and his characters chillingly reveal the divisive bigotry of soldiers ostensibly fighting for the same values, as well as some unexpected sources of redemption. Despite some unnecessary repetitive details (e.g., the ineffectively recurring symbol of Hart's cherished wristwatch), this deeply affecting, artfully paced war epic will hold readers enthralled to the nail-biting end. Military Book Club and Literary Guild alternates; film rights to MGM.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.