Puzo, Mario - 'Six Graves to Munich'
Two weeks after the Normandy landings, Captain Mike Rogan and his wife (and the rest of their French resistance cell) are captured by the Gestapo. Due to Rogan's skill with codes, they're taken to Munich for special treatment where Mrs Rogan dies under torture. When the American army is approaching Munich the interrogators shoot Rogan in the head and dump his body in the courtyard of Munich town hall. Ten years later Rogan - who did not die - is ready to stalk his would-be killers across Europe and assassinate them.
This is a reprint of a book which has been, according to the back cover "lost for more than forty years"; since 1967, in fact. It's not really a crime story, it's a revenge thriller in which the two points of interest are (a) will he succeed? (b) how will he do it? There're a couple of complications - he picks up a girl as a travelling companion and, for some reason, various agencies get just a little peeved with someone wandering around Europe doing people in.
Puzo carefully made the bad guys represent a range of Axis nations. This means that Rogan's career of vengance has to visit both sides of Iron Curtain, and Italy, rather than just strolling around West Germany a little. It's a given that they all successfully adopted new identities after the war, and all achieved postions of power and or respect (which, of course, makes them easier to track down).
No-one is particularly well characterised; this is particuarly unfortunate in the case of Rogan's wife - she never actually appears as a person, just as an off-stage victim and reason for vengance. For most of the live characters, there is reasonable dialogue to make up for any lack of characterisation. It's not really the sort of book where you'd expect story and well-rounded characters.
There are some oddities in the plot, largely in the back story; it seems a little unlikely that an American, parachuted into occupied France as a covert radio operator, would actually get married while he was on active service.
SIX GRAVES TO MUNICH is a reasonably enjoyable, workmanlike and functional thriller. A more nuanced version of a not-quite-the-same-story is CHRISTOPHER'S GHOSTS by Charles McCarry.
Rik Shepherd, England
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