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The Arms Maker of Berlin Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 4, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Four missing documents from WWII provide the fuel for Fesperman's fine stand-alone thriller. The FBI hires Nat Turnbull, a Nazi expert at a second-tier New England university, to find the documents, but Nat soon discovers that the agency has reasons other than historical integrity for wanting them found: to keep a lid on certain war-era sins committed by a German industrialist whose enormous company has been a major weapons supplier to the West. As Turnbull shuttles between Europe and the U.S., he manages to stay a step ahead of a mysterious killer who's knocking off anyone who may know something about the missing files. Fesperman (The Prisoner of Guantánamo) convincingly evokes the fraying Reich in 1944, a time of shifting allegiances when many Germans focused on positioning themselves for a Hitler-less future, though the who and why of all the recent killings remain somewhat murky. Still, readers who like a bit of history with their thrills will be thoroughly satisfied. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"'Intelligent thriller' is almost an oxymoron . . . Which may be why novels like Dan Fesperman's are so rare . . . Fesperman just can't help drawing on his experience as a journalist covering foreign conflicts. And that experience puts the meat on the intricate bone structure of his thriller plots. You come away from a Fesperman novel not only abuzz with the exhilaration of the chase, but also aware that you've absorbed something of the complexity of the world's conflicts . . . Fesperman's characters in The Arms Maker of Berlin, particularly Bauer, are smartly imagined and subtly drawn."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"A smoothly accelerating thriller . . . Fesperman is a skillful, unpretentious writer who deftly incorporates his extensive knowledge of the period."
 — Boston Globe
"Well-crafted entertainment that also delivers complex truths about warfare and survival."
—Kirkus Reviews
"Fesperman convincingly evokes the fraying Reich in 1944 . . . Readers who like a bit of history with their thrills will be thoroughly satisfied."
—Publishers Weekly
"Fesperman writes well. His characters are believable, and the strong and credible plot will specially appeal to fans of World War II espionage fiction."
—Library Journal
"This one is definitely not your out-of-the-box spy caper, thus highly recommended . . . In the jaded world of the post-modern spy novel, there are no good guys or bad guys, no black or white—just a thousand shades of gray. This combination of anomie and espionage can get tiresome after awhile, but in Fesperman's newest novel, he spices things up."
—Booklist (starred)

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307268373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307268372
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #496,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love reading great suspense novels, so when the guy sitting opposite me on the subway was so engrossed in his book that he missed his stop altogether and didn't realize the fact for nearly 10 minutes, I had to wonder what he was reading. Turns out it was Dan Fesperman's latest thriller -- a book by an author I hadn't even heard of. The plot seemed intriguing enough, combining as it did a historical mystery revolving around the fate of a White Rose Nazi resistance cell in Berlin just after the fall of Stalingrad with the appearance of long-missing archival material about the OSS's wartime operations in Bern, just across the Swiss border. So I snapped it up, and don't regret it despite some rather stereotypical characters and wince-inducing writing. ("Keep working with me and you will have a far better chance of getting all that you want", the 21st century femme fatale trying to solve both the contemporary mystery and the historical puzzle tells our hero. He muses to himself, predictably enough: "The remark was stirring on several levels."

Nevertheless, during a summer that has brought some disappointing books from authors whose work I've previously enjoyed (Daniel Silva, flagging in the Gabriel Allon series; Christopher Reichs, still not at his best; Richard North Patterson in the yet-to-be released The Spire, a shadow of his best work), this was a very welcome addition to my mindless summer reading list. As Nat Turnbull scurries from North America to Europe and back again in search of the clues that will help him resolve the mystery that links the OSS with the White Rose operation and that his academic mentor (a former OSS spy) had long concealed, I began to understand exactly why that guy had missed his subway stop.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on September 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A couple of ambitious history professors go up against a ruthless assassin (and sometimes each other) to track down four missing Nazi-era files in Fesperman's (The Small Boat of Great Sorrows) latest political thriller.

Snatched from his desk deep in the archives of his university library in the middle of the night, Professor Nat Turnbull, specialist in the Nazi resistance movement, is understandably suspicious. But his abductor proves to be an FBI agent without a minute to lose. Turns out Nat's old mentor, Gordon Wolfe, now 84, has been arrested in possession of top-secret FBI archives, an intelligence trove stolen at the end of WWII.

Now the FBI needs to know what's in them - particularly anything having to do with The White Rose, a German resistance group, crushed before the war's end.

The files detail Allied intelligence operations in Switzerland, mostly centered around Allen Dulles, later the first civilian director of the CIA. Gordon always claimed to be one of his operatives, recruited after his plane was shot down over Switzerland.

But Gordon's war record has recently been called into question. Gordon blames the feds for that and tells Nat to dig deep and dig fast and the truth will set them both free.

Next to approach Nat is an attractive young scholar from East Germany. Berta Heinkel tells him that four files - the only ones that really matter - are missing. She believes they contain the facts about the betrayal of the Berlin chapter of the White Rose and the wartime activities of a powerful German industrialist who was just a 17-year-old boy at the time.

Intrigued, not sure who or what to believe, Nat hedges his bets.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas S. Fiske on January 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dan Fesperman accomplished two tasks with his book "Arms Maker of Berlin." First, he told well an interesting story that took me back to the German WWII episode of sixty years ago. In that, his book was like a comfortable pair of old shoes. But he did something else.

The author expertly wove together two stories--one from the past and one in the present. This is not easily done, but he did it well.

I recommend it both to WWII buffs and to readers who just plain want to be entertained.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John P. Rooney on March 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"The Arms Maker Of Berlin" by Dan Fesperman. Thorndike Press, Waterville, ME 2009.

Some little spoilers here....

This is an excellent spy novel, with at least three, perhaps four or five, story lines, depending upon how you count all the stories being told. The author, Dan Fesperman, has done a great job of running all these different story lines and then bringing all of them to a resolution in the last few chapters of the book.

On the first level, there is the conflict between Professor Nat Turnbull and his aging mentor, Gordon Wolfe. Turnbull and Wolfe have become estranged and the author "kills off" Wolfe before the estrangement is cleared up. This is required since the book's entire search would be unnecessary if Gordon Wolfe were available to answer simple questions.

On the second level, the story revolves around Kurt Bauer, the surviving son of the scion of the Bauer Arms Factories. Much of the book has the reader wondering if Kurt Bauer was part of the anti-Hitler organization known as the "White Rose", and, if so, what could the missing files, of 1944-1945, contain that would be damaging to the post 1990s Kurt Bauer?

Then, the third story centers on a German woman, Berta Heinkel, who was from the DDR, the old East Germany, and, like Turnbull and Wolfe, she was a history professor. Early on in the book, it would seem that her main target was Kurt Bauer. It takes some reading to determine why Heinkel would want to destroy Bauer`s public image. But, on a sub-level, Berta Heinkel provides some sexual scenes.

Then, in perhaps a fourth story, the FBI is bugging Wolfe, Turnbull, and when she enters the story, Berta Heinkel. The author portrays the modern American FBI as intrusive as the German Gestapo of 1944-1945.
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