Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.
It’s 1936, and we find ourselves in the United States in the run-up to the war. The Depression is, for some, anyway, an unpleasant memory. But another, far greater threat is looming, albeit a distant one, and of no concern to most Americans.
For Special Agent Jimmy Nessheim, anxious to prove himself in the FBI, both to his superiors and his parents, with whom he hasn’t been entirely truthful about his job, it’s a time of trial. Ordered to find out what he can about the Bund, an extremely pro-Nazi organisation of German descendants in the US, and their plans to assist in any way they can with Hitler’s plans, he finds himself drawn into an intrigue which reaches not just down to the factory floor, but right into the heart of the White House and Washington society.
Very soon he finds that the Bund’s plans – encouraged by supporters close to government who want to see President Roosevelt embarrassed out of office – have an even more drastic solution: they’d like to see him dead.
The author does very well here in capturing several key aspects and weaving them into the plot: the dual approach of the US in facing up to and identifying their enemies - something on which their record is still not that good, sadly, a bit like our own; the problem of having millions of inhabitants of German ancestry in their midst (a problem replicated later with the Japanese community); the almost disinterested attitude of some Americans – especially in Washington at the time – towards the looming war in Europe; the sense of impotence felt by a lowly cog in a government machine (Agent Nessheim in the FBI) who knows something is amiss, but doesn’t know who to trust because it’s all just too darned big and multi-layered.
As a study on one short piece of history, this is an intriguing enough read, especially when it compares quite closely with some of British high society’s ambivalence towards the Nazis in the late thirties. But as a study on a junior agent’s sense of feebleness in an organisation and a country which seems hell bent on not seeing what is coming, it makes for a very good thriller.