Chris Petit is the author of the critically and commercially successful THE PSALM KILLER and BACK FROM THE DEAD. The former film editor of TIME OUT, he is currently the thriller reviewer for the GUARDIAN. His film directing credits include RADIO ON; FLIGHT TO BERLIN; AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN and CHINESE BOXES. He lives in London.
Conspiracy freaks with nothing to do can pop a Haldol in jubilation upon the publication of this third book from former Time Out London film editor Petit (The Psalm Killer; Back from the Dead). Joe Hoover, a widowed, aging wartime double agent with a mysterious disease, is summoned from Florida to Frankfurt via his old WWII call sign from Karl-Heinz Strasse, a former SS officer, 60 years after the fall of the Third Reich, for reasons that possibly involve the agent's duplicitous (and promiscuous) former boss Betty von Heimendorf. Alongside this tale of wartime pros gathering at journey's end is the tense, sweating parallel story of Vaughan, an English investigative journalist undercover in a group of neo-Nazi skinheads, investigating Karl-Heinz's life story for his boss, a bored media tycoon, while trying to get his mind off his incestuous relationship with his half-sister, Dora. As the story oozes in all directions through an increasingly disjointed series of letters, secret memos and drunken ravings by every member of the shifting cast, Petit conjures up a vague, amorphous hijack of humanity by vested political and economic interests perpetuating a warped biological testing program (on "the human pool") la Einsatzgruppen. The reader will be lost long before the realization that there is no clear resolution to the novel, just an ever-increasing background volume of paranoia, manifested mainly in poor Vaughan ("The second time I crawled back into the box voluntarily. The third time I didn't come out"). As Hoover himself puts it to the curious Vaughan in the novel's clearest exchange: "Why not leave it alone?" "Because I'll be dead soon and it's about time I knew." Readers may well echo his sentiments. Agent, Gillon Aitken. (Oct. 22) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Petit's third thriller (after The Psalm Killer and Back from the Dead) switches between two different eras. Both worlds are described by several narrators, most notably (for the present) journalist Vaughn, and (for the past and present) Joe Hoover, a former OSS agent. While Vaughn researches neo-Nazis for a documentary filmmaker, Hoover has been called to Frankfurt by Karl-Heinz Strasse, a former Nazi who had ties to spymaster Allen Dulles (later director of the CIA). The reason for Hoover's visit is the possible reappearance of a Swiss courier long thought dead, a man who arranged transport to freedom for Jews and then possibly betrayed them. Underlying this complex scenario is a web of corruption that ties Dulles's wartime activities in Switzerland to German pharmaceutical giant, I.G. Farben, and ultimately to chemical experiments being carried out today on Kurdish orphans. A seamless and intricate interweaving of past and present, and of characters real and fictional, this is recommended for popular fiction collections where spy thrillers are popular. Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.