David L. Robbins grimly recounts the merciless determination of the German and Soviet combatants of the battle of Stalingrad in War of the Rats
. Drawing from real events, Robbins tells the story of one of the battle's most pivotal contests: the famous sniper duel between Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev and S.S. Colonel Heinz Thorvald. Zaitsev, a cunning Siberian hunter hardened by Stalingrad's butchery, has formed an impromptu sniper school in the midst of the battle, training his comrades to kill with implacable efficiency. The hundreds of bodies left in their wake prompt the Nazi leadership to send Thorvald, the cold-blooded master of the Wehrmacht's elite sniper academy, to assassinate the Soviet prodigy. Robbins's nerve-wracking prose depicts the two adversaries as they pursue their private war across a twisted hellscape of burning tanks and gutted factories. In the novel's most impressive section, Robbins leaps between the thoughts of Zaitsev and Thorvald as they struggle, in their final battle, to put the crosshairs on each other's head. A war novel that reveals the shrewd savagery in human nature, War of the Rats
vividly reveals why the Germans referred to the fighting at Stalingrad as Der Rattenkrieg
. --James Highfill
From Publishers Weekly
Set in the rubble of Stalingrad during WWII, Robbins's second novel hinges on a dramatic mano a mano confrontation between a Russian sniper and his German counterpart during a pivotal stretch of the historic 1942 siege. Vasily Zaitsev is "The Hare," a hunter from the Ural Mountains with deadly skills as a chief master sergeant in the Red Army. His proficiency as a marksman attracts considerable attention from both sides, starting when his Russian bosses put him in charge of a "sniper school" to supplement the front-line soldiers. Zaitsev and his students have so much success against the Nazis that the Germans deploy a master sniper of their own, SS Colonel Heinz Thorvald (aka "The Headmaster"), to assassinate Zaitsev and turn the tide in the battle for Stalingrad. The beleaguered city itself becomes a character in the struggle as Zaitsev and Thorvald attempt to outmaneuver one another. Stalingrad also harbors a pair of lovers, as Zaitsev conducts a passionate affair with fellow sniper Tania Chernova, the headstrong daughter of New York-dwelling Russian immigrants. Tania joins the fight for Russia after she travels to Minsk in hopes of rescuing her grandparents, only to watch them die at the hands of the Germans. Robbins does a brilliant job of dissecting the unique mindset and steely emotions that snipers must possess and painting the battle scenes, but none of the primary characters escapes war novel clich?s. The final confrontation takes a while to play out, but once Robbins (Souls to Keep) gets to the heart of the matter, he presents a riveting account of a battle within a battle, and the sniper motif proves an ideal vehicle to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. Agent, Marcy Posner. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.