Friday, August 03, 2012

Flight from Berlin by David John

I'm always very pleased when a first-rate World War II thriller shows up on the "New Releases" list, but I'm every more pleased when the book delivers on its intended promise.

Flight from Berlin by David John does just that.

Although the 1936 Berlin Olympics have been covered in fiction before (see Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver for another engrossing read), John's debut novel takes a slight twist in featuring one of the Olympic athletes as a main character. Spoiled and maybe  too keen on partying, Eleanor Emerson is an Olympic swimmer en route to the Olympics when she gets thrown off the team for getting drunk and dancing all night. She is then given the job of being a journalist covering the games, and she meets English journalist Richard Denham.

Denham has lived in Berlin for several years. His ex-wife and young son live in Britain. Denham has seen the seedy underbelly of Nazism and he senses there's a story to be found when he discovers that Hannah Liebermann, a talented fencer, is the only Jewish athlete on the German Olympic team. Further investigation reveals that the Nazis are threatening to harm Hannah's family if she doesn't participate.

Denham and Eleanor team up to uncover the story, and in the process, discover that Hannah's father has a dossier on Hitler that the head Nazis want back very badly. What they are willing to do to get it back puts Richard and Eleanor on a collision course with evil itself.

John places you right smack in Berlin in 1936, and his vivid, sensory descriptions and flawless narrative deliver a terrific read. Also enjoyable are his inclusions of a Zeppelin airship, the Hindenburg, real-life personages - Martha Dodd, daughter of U.S. Ambassador William Dodd, plays a major role - and spot-on historical detail.

I look forward to more great reads from David John, and highly recommend Flight from Berlin for its fast-paced action, gripping detail, and well-rounded characters.

*Disclosure. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes only.