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Fear Itself Hardcover – International Edition, March 7, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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 --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


"A chilling and meticulously detailed historical novel that explores one of the great 'what-if' questions of twentieth-century history, the events that so nearly kept America on the sidelines of World War II. The range of characters and settings is particularly impressive, together with the depth of research underpinning them. The novel brings home to us the enormous stakes at issue in this lethal game that so few contemporaries even realised was being played. Andrew Rosenheim has the rare knack of being able to understand history from the perspectives of both the old world and the new. He is set clearly to become a new dark star of the literary thriller with a political edge." -- Andrew Taylor, author of THE AMERICAN BOY "Andrew Rosenheim's ambitious thriller Fear Itself reveals a little known aspect of the second world war. A young FBI agent, Jimmy Nessheim, risks his life when he's ordered to infiltrate the Bund, a pro-Nazi organisation determined to keep America out of the war." Sunday Times "An intriguing story, well told." -- Jessica Mann Literary Review "An elegant political thriller... Written with style and skill, the novel slips seamlessly between the high politics of Germany and the US, with an ear for both, and a plot that is all too plausible." Daily Mail "Accomplished ... a superlative thriller ... Rosenheim's career as a writer of intelligent and nuanced thrillers looks very promising indeed." -- Barry Forshaw Independent

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson (March 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091796067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091796068
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,712,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the first book of two, The Little Tokyo Informant is the second. Where the latter was set in LA, this one is set in the eastern US. Xenophobia allied with smugness is the only explanation for the willful blindness/ignorance of far too many Americans who should have known better. Contemporary readers will have a hard time understanding how their great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents could have been so blind. This is not 20/20 hindsight, but a function of technology. Americans felt they were safe, cut off as they were by the Atlantic (and Pacific, while we're about it) from the rising totalitarianism in Europe and Asia, from the right and the left. This book also shows up the failures of the melting pot. Sorting through everything above to arrive at the solution to a series of crimes is the protagonist's principal problem. I'm truly gratified by the depictions of J. Edgar and Clyde, as I'm the son of an FBI agent and have a letter from J. Edgar congratulating my father on the birth of me. So I grew up with them, in a manner of speaking. Agent Nessheim is a masterful creation.
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is an enjoyable "period piece" or historical novel. [For decades, I have enjoyed Loren Estleman's novels . . . and the "Four Horseman" short stories . . . so, it is interesting to read a relatively new procedural set in the 1930s.] I plan to buy and read all of Rosenheim's novels. I would recommend that the author consult Batvinis's book on the origins of FBI counterintelligence operations. In addition, the author did make one error on page 19 of Chapter 2, which starts with the dateline March 1937, when he refers to FBI special agent Nessheim's handgun as a Smith & Wesson Model 10. Smith & Wesson started identifying its modern hand ejector revolvers by number (e.g., Model "10") in 1957. The author should have referred to the revolver as it would have identified in 1937, a .38 Military & Police (see pages 136, 168, and 173 of the STANDARD CATALOG OF SMITH & WESSON, Iola/Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books, 2006, written by Jim Supica and Richard Nahas). Those of us who carried the old K-frame Smiths back-in-the-day as federal special agents (in my case, going back 40 years ago) swore by them.
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By Star 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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