From Publishers Weekly
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“O’Donnell clearly enjoys narrating war’s gristle along with its meat; small successes and failures ground the story in the reality of sabotage, reconnaissance, capture and escape, torture and murder. Along the way, the participants’ motivations, allegiances, thoughts and actions come alive in vigorous, exciting prose. A taut real-life thriller.”
“The Brenner Assignment” is an important contribution to the still unfolding history of the Office of Strategic Services, perhaps the most remarkable organization in American history. A fascinating tale of brains, brawn, and bravado.”
“Remarkable and very readable. Patrick O’Donnell has transformed an obscure World War II spy mission into a vivid and improbable adventure yarn.”
“Patrick O’Donnell is a first-rate storyteller and one of our most perceptive historians. Few writers give as much of themselves to bring history to life. The Brenner Assignment is vintage O’Donnell—a pulse-pounding thriller that reads like a novel.”
“O’Donnell is a skilled military historian…Anyone with an interest in WWII will want to read [this] excellent book.”
“Beginning with an inherently engaging tale of wartime derring-do, the author adds extensive research—from the OSS files at the National Archives to interviews with eyewitnesses including Italian partisans and the 90-year-old Chappell—and sprightly prose. The result is a first-rate spy tale.”
“This book cries out to be made into a movie. Two heroes on the same quest, a grand setting, evil Germans, spies and traitors, and a beautiful countess. What more would it need?...A tale untold until now…It’s a great story…Anyone interested in the details of a struggle as full of cruelty and heroism as any war has ever been will keep turning the pages right through to the end.”
“This exciting narrative of war at the personal level will be a good supplement to subject collections."
“O'Donnell draws from primary documents and interviews with the story's main characters, lending the story historical truth…A valuable read for WWII buffs.”
“The best spy thriller of the year is a true account of one Howard Chappell, a captain who was one of the first OSS operatives…This is material that could not be made up. The story is told through not only detailed notes of missions, but of Chappell’s personal diaries, where you just feel for what he must have been going through. It is jaw-dropping that everything in The Brenner Assignment is 100 percent real, making the writings of certain spy masters look like fairy tales…This is no Hollywood tale where things are tied up nicely, making this book even more of a must-read, since there are moments where you can’t believe what is going on and how these people pulled off these missions…Brenner could easily be referred to as the real-life Where Eagles Dare, but that would be a disservice to the men behind this history…O’Donnell has created a work of non-fiction that surpasses the greatest works of spy fiction.”
“A fast-paced Word War Two epic that grips the reader with a sharp intensity seldom seen in today’s middle-of-the-road literature. Melding the blow-by-blow reportage of Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song with the high drama of Hemingway’s best short fiction, military historian Patrick O’Donnell manages to tell the story of a small platoon of Americans who were assigned a dangerous and almost impossible task…While most World War Two stories written today mistakenly attempt to be bigger than life, what’s best about The Brenner Assignment is that it captures the human elements of war in true-to-life wordscapes (showing that valor and bravery are often only the by-products of ordinary men persevering against hard-edged odds). Featuring immaculate prose and exhaustive research, O’Donnell has created a movie in book form that will captivate its reader from start-to-finish. If there’s a veteran in the house, this book makes for a natural gift that will entertain as it educates and enlightens.”
Curled Up with a Good Book, 11/08
“A wonderful telling of this daring spy mission…Patrick O’Donnell keeps the reader enthralled with his smoothly flowing historical narrative… O’Donnell makes those people who had died alive again…Highly recommended to those interested in World War II in Italy, spy stories, the OSS, or a good ol’ hero story."
“As strange and glorious as the most wildly conceived espionage fiction…Prose that could come right out of a spy thriller…O’Donnell is not only a first-rate historian, he’s a world-class storyteller…He fleshes out history with a combination of hard evidence and intimate biography of the major players. If this were fiction, it would be remarkable; as an overlooked piece of world war history, it’s priceless.”
“If moviemakers ever run out of material for James Bond movies, they could always Anglicize the true stories of heroic American war saboteurs Stephen Hall and Albert Chappell…O'Donnell's story is compelling because the author has done so much legwork… World War II book lovers should enjoy The Brenner Assignment for the larger-than-life risks and successes of a few daring American paratroopers…O'Donnell's valuable history certainly proved one thing: More than 63 years after it ended, World War II still has incredible stories to tell.”
“The book’s story is told with novelistic, even cinematic impact, and is sure to thrill fans of the derring-do of that war…O’Donnell writes nonfiction as if he is creating a thriller…He effectively presents not only the American operatives but also their enemies…And he traces the Brenner Pass assignment carefully, including what went right and what went wrong—bringing to life the small triumphs and failures that, collectively, can win or lose a war…O’Donnell’s use of primary sources is impressive, as is his ability to knit the various parts of this story together. It is a well-told, true tale.”
“[A] made-for-the-movies saga.”
“In stark yet evocative prose, O'Donnell deftly shows how a young, idealistic Army lieutenant attempted to cut off access to the Brenner Pass.”
Providence Journal, 12/7/08
“Tell[s] for the first time the real-life story of how Office of Strategic Services warriors worked behind enemy lines to shut off the supply channels of Nazi Germany into Italy…The classic spy story O’Donnell succeeds in creating is complex, suspenseful, romantic, and reads like fiction.”
Augusta Metro Spirit, 11/26/08
“For the first time, the most daring operation of World War II is brought into the light in a wonderfully crafted narrative…Most readers will have to remind themselves they are reading a non-fiction account…Interested in military history or thrilling stories, here’s a powerful combination of the two.”
“A story not widely known of unbelievable bravery, heroism, and commitment…A gripping old-fashioned tale of good (American agents and Italian Partisans) vs. evil (Nazi SS and Gestapo) with evil finally defeated and made to atone…Written with cinematic pacing and simplicity and with a cast of characters that are reminiscent of the black and white war films made during the war or shortly after.”
“[It] has captured my attention so thoroughly it was hard to put down…The story that is emerging (even from the first few pages) is thrilling. I can already recommend this.”
Washington Post Express, 11/19/08
“The story of an improbable and important WWII mission—one that’s never been told before.”
America in WWII, 02/09
“O’Donnell, who wrote brilliantly of the current Iraq War in We Were One, has revealed a little-known story of World War II…in fast-moving and engaging prose…Read[s] like a good suspense or spy novel. O’Donnell entertains thoroughly while bringing to light a locale and struggle few students of the war know about.”
Italian America, Winter 2009
“For the first time, the facts behind the most daring covert operation of WW II are revealed in this true adventure story…Tapping thousands of recently declassified files, documents and interview...