Book Review: The Thyssen Affair by Mozelle Richardson

Hi all…

In the mid-80s, I started reading quite a bit of spy novels set during the Cold War. The detente between Russia and the United States echoed in much of the literature of the time, from the stories of Ian Fleming‘s James Bond to the novels of Robert Ludlum, Ira Levin, Frederick Forsyth, and Ken Follett. Depending on where you turned, the Nazi legacy lived on around the world.

So when I saw the description of The Thyssen Affair by Mozelle Richardson, I was excited. Here was a story that brought together remnants of the WWII OSS, its successor agency the CIA, the Israeli Mossad, the Russian KGB, and echoes of Nazi Germany. Plus, it stars Canyon Elliot, a Colorado rancher and retired intelligence officer as the main character. How could I pass it up?

The story begins with Elliot being brought in on a CIA operation by a friend of his – Peter Landis. Peter, currently working at the CIA, was a good friend of his son before he was killed in Vietnam. Peter’s request is simple – take a skull to Munich, Germany, and figure out why the KGB went to the trouble to dig it up from a graveyard on the site of an old POW camp in Fort Reno, Oklahoma. Simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, as with most things, his trip is anything by simple. By the time he gets to New York to head across the Atlantic, he has to lose someone tailing him. But by the time he gets to Munich, he realizes there has to be more to the skull of this German officer, Major Von Stober…

The Thyssen Affair starts quickly and doesn’t let up to the end. And if you like your spy fiction with explosions, gunfire, and knife fights you shouldn’t be disappointed. It’s a chess game between Elliot and the people trying to keep him from the truth but when the lovely KGB agent Anya comes into the picture, she does more than ruffle his feathers as the two leapfrog around Europe.

Richardson’s style reminded me quite a bit of the Ludlum novels I read as a teenager. It’s a quick read with intricate twists and turns, but like with Ludlum, the conspiracies and intrigue are nothing without great characters. Ultimately it’s those characters and the way their backgrounds bubble up to explain their motivations that really made this story work. Sure there’s a great deal of spy vs. spy action as well, but the character details are the glue that holds everything together.

The other aspect of her style I absolutely loved is that this is set in 1980. There are no computers, no cellular phones, no James Bond Q-Branch gadgetry… Elliot and the rest of the gang have to rely on tried and true spy methods. Codebook stuffed in a hollowed out heel of a shoe? Check. Microdot copy of a map to Nazi treasure? Check. Standard hand to hand, knives, and guns? Check. And in most cases, Elliot is forced to use is brains to think his way out of problems more often than not.

As I read along, I couldn’t help but think the book would make a great movie in the style of the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s. I’m not sure who they’d get to play Elliot, but perhaps someone like Tommy Lee Jones could pull it off.

The Thyssen Affair was a fast, enjoyable read. If you’re looking for a good spy novel from the Cold War, be sure to check it out!

This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this book and other Cold War spy novels from Barnes & Noble below!

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Book Review: The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

Hi all…

Last year, I had the pleasure of reading Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry, which took the concept of a zombie plague and put it in the hands of a group of terrorists. Joe Ledger was the hero recruited to take on the shambling, infected dead and find a way to stop them as part of the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) – a super-secret group of highly-trained and resourceful individuals tasked to take out the threats the normal police or military forces of the United States can’t handle.

Now Maberry has managed to take evil to a whole new level with The Dragon Factory. Not only does the terror fit in a timebox of one week, it merges cutting-edge genetics and biological science with the eugenics goal of the Nazis of World War II as they strived to create a “master race”.

Consider what would happen if the cloning experiments described in Ira Levin‘s The Boys from Brazil had the technological tools and expertise of today. Now multiply that by a factor of 1000. As the novel progresses, the depths of depravity and layers of pure evil reveal themselves to be imaginative, inspiring, and horrific all at the same time.

On one side you have the beautiful Jakoby Twins – brilliant, elusive, perfect albino twins engaged in creating genetic mash-ups of existing creatures to form monsters and mercenaries capable of wanton destruction at the drop of a hat. On the other side, you have their father – Cyrus Jakoby – striving to not only create the Nazi Master Race, but rid the world of impurities as Adolph Hitler began to do during his reign of terror.

Between those two factions we find a race against a doomsday clock (called the “Extinction Clock”) nobody knows about until it’s almost too late and Joe Ledger and his friends fight against the odds to save the world from the depths of depravity and madness. Ledger fights the evil on his own terms – but is the sacrifice too high this time?

Honestly, I love it when novels manage to work in not only artifacts of the present, but the echoes of history that are far too often forgotten. Maberry does both in spades while putting you on a heck of a rollercoaster ride. And don’t worry – there’s lots of gunfire, knife fights, and grenades to go around.

Though there is some serious science embedded in the pages of The Dragon Factory, I never found myself bogged down anywhere. His explanations were simple enough to keep the plot moving and the action hardly ever let up. Even the occasional love scene rarely slowed the novel’s pace. Merging the dangers of genetic and biological manipulation with the unfathomable evil of the plans for the Nazi Master Race was a brilliant yet terrifying reminder that humankind is capable of truly beautiful and horrible things.

Maberry has written multiple novels, magazine articles, and plays while also teaching writing. I don’t know where he finds all the time. His novels include Ghost Road Blues, which won the Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2006, Dead Man’s Song, Bad Moon Rising, and Patient Zero, which was recently optioned for television. And when he’s not writing novels, he writes for several Marvel comics, including The Black Panther and other heroes including Wolverine, Spider-Man, The Punisher, and others.

If you like fast, intelligent action thrillers, I can highly recommend Jonathan Maberry’s The Dragon Factory to be on your list of books to read. And if you haven’t read Patient Zero, I’d encourage you to pick that up as well. They’re both fast reads with some serious crunch. I can hardly wait to see what’s next for Joe Ledger – and I’d love to see Patient Zero done well on television!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up The Dragon Factory and other Jonathan Maberry books at Amazon:

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Book Review: The Atlantis Revelation by Thomas Greanias

Unfamiliar with Thomas Greanias‘ work, I decided to dive into his latest book – The Atlantis Revelation. The combination of Atlantis and Nazi schemes was enough to tickle my fancy, exploring the fantastic world of archaeologist Conrad Yeats. The book turned out to be a bit like National Treasure with a bit of The Da Vinci Code and James Bond thrown in for good measure.

The book opens with Yeats diving in the wreckage of the legendary Nazi submarine, Nausicaa, deep in the Mediterranean ocean. Nausicaa was once captained by SS General Ludwig von Berg, also known as the Baron of the Black Order, the leader of Hitler’s Ahnenerbe – a group dedicated to proving that the Aryans were the descendants of Atlantis. The Baron had found some kind of Atlantean artifact and it had gone down when the submarine was sunk by the British Royal Navy in 1943.

Yeats soon discovered that it was the Flammenschwert or “Sword of Fire” – some kind of torpedo or bomb based on Atlantean technology? He had little time to find out however, as he was attacked in what I can only describe as a Thunderball-like (thank you Ian Fleming) underwater scuba battle by men also after the Baron’s treasure. As his attackers left him stuck in the Nausicaa, he had to wonder what he’d gotten himself into this time.

This was only the beginning of an adventure that spans the globe as Yeats puts the pieces together pitting him against Sir Roman Midas, Russian orphan turned British mining tycoon and mastermind behind what could become a global oil crisis. Along the way, Yeats works again with Sister Serena Serghetti from the Vatican, whom he had a previous relationship with. And it ends in a chase under the Temple Mount to stop a group intent on starting a world war.

Yeats seems to have a knack for surviving impossible situations and coming out on top or knowing who to contact when he gets into a bind, which got a bit tiring after a while. The jet-setting lifestyle and multiple talents of our erstwhile archaeologist made James Bond seem like an amateur while channeling a bit of Indiana Jones. But other than that it was fun to see how all the threads wove together.

The Atlantis Revelation was a very quick read and kept me entertained all the way through to the end. I’m always intrigued when writers work Nazis into the equation, as with The Boys from Brazil from Ira Levin and the Indiana Jones franchise. And add in the Atlantis side of things and I have to say it’s a great combination.

If you like quick, fun thrillers, The Atlantis Revelation by Thomas Greanias should be on your reading list. Check it out at your favorite library or bookstore!

–Fitz

p.s. Look for these books at Amazon!

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