My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book by Frederick Forsyth, following on the heels on the Day of the Jackal, which I also really enjoyed. I’ve waited several days to write anything about it because for some reason I don’t feel like I have anything of value to say about it. For some reason, words escape me. But I guess I’ll mention a few things. The book is about a German journalist named Peter Miller who, on the day of JFK’s death, discovers the suicide of a Jewish death camp survivor. He doesn’t think much of it until his detective friend gives him the man’s diary to read and he finds it both compelling and horrifying. The man had been at Riga, in Latvia, one of just a few hundred survivors out of over 80,000 Jews who were killed there. The camp commander was one Captain Eduard Roschmann, aka the Butcher of Riga. He was a horrible murderer. The concentration camp survivor had stayed alive long enough to see this man brought to justice, but when it became apparent 20 years later that he wouldn’t, he killed himself.
Miller made it his mission to find Roschmann. He found the old man’s friend, who confirmed he saw Roschmann leaving the opera just a few weeks previously. Miller started making inquiries and was warned off. He finds out about a secret organization called Odessa comprised of ex-SS men that exists to shepard endangered SS men to safety, to give them new identities, to defend them in court, etc, etc. Miller is contacted by the Mossad, although he doesn’t realize it’s them. They want him to infiltrate Odessa, though they warn him it’ll be very dangerous. They’d already had two men killed who’d tried to do this. He wants to do it though, so they set him up as a fake ex SS man with documents and a fake story that he’s trained on and he’s interviewed and sent to get new ID papers. He does all of this so he can get to Roschmann, who is still alive and living as someone else, rich, and in charge of a factory with scientists helping Egypt discover the means to send rockets to destroy Israel, a side story to the real story. The ending of the book is pretty climactic, although I’m knocking it down from five to four stars because the stated motivation for Miller’s obsessive search for Roschmann hangs on just too much blind luck, in my opinion, and just wasn’t very believable. This book allegedly merges fact with fiction, which makes it all the more fascinating, but this was one instance in which it had to be fiction.
The book had a pretty good pace to it. You got a good feel for Miller and got to know his girlfriend too. You didn’t really get a good look at the other characters, but that’s alright. It’s an exciting book to read with an interesting premise and even though it’s a little dated, it didn’t feel too dated. By the way, they made a movie of the book several years ago and I watched it yesterday. It’s pretty good too. It stars Jon Voight. If you’re interested, you might want to check it out. Recommended.