Top critical review
Junior league. Not history - just fiction.
Reviewed in the United States on February 16, 2019
This isn’t a work of historical fiction. Rather, it is amateur fiction that includes many historical figures from Germany, Great Britain, and America. It isn’t about a specific historical event; it is simply a story set during WWII that happens to have a lot of famous people from that era.
It starts out promisingly enough. The story opens with a German spy (Erik Wahlburg) escaping from England in a rowboat with secrets that could change the outcome of the war. He is collected by a submarine which has been sent to transport him back to the Fatherland, where he is to deliver his intelligence to his boss, Erwin Rommel. To his great dismay, he discovers that the captain of the ship is none other than his despised older brother Wolfgang, the ‘Scourge of the North Sea’, the second most famous U-boat captain of the war. He is brought on board, and before he even dries off, he is accosted by a rabid Nazi SS officer who is determined to use every means necessary to subvert his orders, extract his secrets, and report back to the Fuhrer.
Before the sub has cleared the English coast, it is attacked by a group of destroyers, the SS guy is killed, and the crew gets captured. The British, suspicious that a spy has been in their midst, interrogates the crew, including Erik, but mistakenly lets everyone slip through their hands. Erik, Wolfgang, and the rest are then sent to a POW camp in Colorado, where they are to wait out the war.
In the camp, Erik and his brother encounter Kepler, a Nazi colonel who is the very model of the brainwashed ultra-dedicated worshiper of Hitler who is bound and determined to carry on the war despite his capture. Kepler feels it is his duty to retrieve Erik’s vital information and forward it to Germany’s high command and get the glory he thinks he deserves. Through a series of ridiculous events, including a sudden outbreak of tornados, Kepler and the brothers escape. They alternately work with and against each other in an effort to find a radio and transmit their secrets to Germany.
The majority of the story follows the frantic effort to recover the escapees before they can contact their superiors. A chief player is Katherine Templeton, owner of the famous Broadmoor resort near Fort Carson and, surprise, the mother of the two brothers. She has a budding love interest in the camp’s commander, a Colonel Morrison who is in Colorado in disgrace after a failed mission overseas. Also involved are famous figures from WWII including American and British intelligence big wheels, Hitler and his some of his bunch, and even J. Edgar Hoover. The action culminates with all of the good guys facing down the bad guys at Cheyenne Mountain.
The tale resembles reality only in that WWII was a real thing, POWs were detained in camps across America, and sometimes they escaped. The rest of it is just make believe. But even make believe stories can be good if they are well written, and here is where the whole thing breaks down. Although it purports to be a historical thriller, it is at least as much a romance novel. Much of the story is dedicated to the relationship between Katherine Templeton and Colonel Morrison. This story line is distracting and makes you wonder if the book was listed in the wrong section.
More distracting are certain issues which actually make this book a chore to read. First, Katherine’s interests seem to receive at least as much emphasis as the spy business. Excessive pages are devoted to her reminiscing about her past life in Germany and her love/hate relationship with her sons. In fact, a primary fault with this book is the author’s propensity to repeat ad nauseam Katherine’s thoughts about why she is in America and why, depending on the moment, she loves, hates, respects, feels sorry for, or wants to kill her sons. He establishes this background information in the beginning, but then he can’t stop harping on it.
Just as bad are the completely unrealistic action scenes, made unbelievable by both the author’s portrayal of Kepler as some kind of super human, and his conviction that all of the Stateside military personnel are inept buffoons. Whenever Kepler goes up against his pursuers, he whips out his “Tommy gun” and effortlessly wipes out vastly superior numbers of adversaries. And even when shot, he miraculously returns to full strength in short order and continues to kill apparently incompetent soldiers. And he never runs out of ammunition.
The story ends with a scene straight out of the Brady Bunch in which the survivors, now seemingly a happy family, visit the beach at Normandy three years after the D-Day invasion. This book is to historical fiction what one of those low budget SyFy horror flicks is to something from Stephen King. Amazon’s description of the book was good enough to suck me in once, but no more of this author for me.