The Odessa File

Title:                  The Odessa File

Author:                 Frederick Forsyth

LCCN:       72081252

PZ4.F7349 Od3

Forsyth, Frederick (1972). The Odessa File. New York: Viking Press

Date Updated:      April 3, 2015


On the first page of the best best-selling The Day of the Jackal’s successor there is a reference to “corroborative details”—they are a very strong attraction in this kind of documentary suspense story, down to the blood-group tattoo under the left armpit which identified the SS. Or the fact that according to the foreword, the Odessa “Organization of Former Members of the SS” has survived to reinfiltrate its old members in high places. Peter Miller, an ordinary young man, a feature writer, happens to read the diary of a Jew who has just gassed himself and has come across the name of the man who once was the Butcher of Riga, a concentration camp, and now is the head of a military-industrial research project. Miller, seemingly quixotically, decides to bring him in and with the help of a revanchist organization is dubbed into an entirely new identity while others are following his old one with orders to “locate and liquidate.” This is certainly as well paced as the earlier book although lacking some of the refined instrumentation (that gun—those contact lenses) and perhaps boldness of design. But it’s all very exciting—Achtung.

The Unlikely Spy

Title:                      The Unlikely Spy

Author:                  Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (1996). The Unlikely Spy. New York: Villard

LCCN:    96027961

PS3619.I5443 U54 1996


Date Updated:  June 23, 2015


Television producer Silva delivers a fine, old-fashioned WW II debut thriller that pits an English don against Admiral Wilhelm Canaris’ Abwehr—in a deadly contest of wits on the eve of the Allied invasion of occupied Europe.

Recruited for the War Office’s MI5 by his friend Winston Churchill, Alfred Vicary (a shrewd history professor who was badly wounded as a behind-the-lines courier during WW I) is assigned early in 1944 to a hush-hush effort to mislead Hitler’s intelligence services concerning D-day’s primary target. While the bachelor academic employs captured German spies to transmit disinformation to Berlin, radio intercepts confirm that a sleeper agent has been activated to determine where the amphibious assault will come ashore. Despite a discouraging lack of leads, Vicary sets about tracking down the hitherto unsuspected operative (a murderous young woman long established in London under the name Catherine Blake) and the Wehrmacht veteran parachuted in to give her a hand.

Dogged police work eventually puts counterespionage watchers on Catherine’s trail but not before she beds a susceptible US Navy officer. Aware that the besotted Yank’s knowledge could put SHAEF’s greatest secret in enemy hands, Vicary coolly blackmails him into cooperating in the ongoing deception. Before he can roll up the network, however, Catherine’s alert accomplice verifies that MI5 is on to them. Leaving a slew of bodies in their wake, the two bolt for a U-boat waiting offshore. Although the fugitives are prevented from escaping the British Isles or reporting what they know, Vicary is found wanting by his superiors. Only after Allied forces are marching through France to the Rhineland does Vicary learn that he played a vital role in an endgame more duplicitous than any the department’s workaday treacheries had prepared him for.

A fine, twisty tale of military intelligence, notable for graceful prose, credibly motivated characters, and evocative detail.

I read this in Readers’ Digest Condensed Books.[1]

[1] Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. (1997, Vol. 229, #3, pp. 151-319).