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Friday, February 23, 2018

The Bookworm by Mitch Silver

Title: The Bookworm
Author: Mitch Silver
Publisher: 6th February 2018 by Pegasus Books
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: mystery, fiction, thriller, World War II
My Rating: 3 crowns

Why did Hitler chose not to invade England when he had the chance?
Europe, 1940: It’s late summer and Belgium has been overrun by the German army. Posing as a friar, a British operative talks his way into the monastery at Villers-devant-Orval just before Nazi art thieves plan to sweep through the area and whisk everything of value back to Berlin. But the ersatz man of the cloth is no thief. Instead, that night he adds an old leather Bible to the monastery’s library and then escapes.
London, 2017: A construction worker operating a backhoe makes a grisly discovery—a skeletal arm-bone with a rusty handcuff attached to the wrist. Was this the site, as a BBC newsreader speculates, of “a long-forgotten prison, uncharted on any map?” One viewer knows better: it’s all that remains of a courier who died in a V-2 rocket attack. The woman who will put these two disparate events together—and understand the looming tragedy she must hurry to prevent—is Russian historian and former Soviet chess champion Larissa Mendelovg Klimt, “Lara the Bookworm,” to her friends. She’s also experiencing some woeful marital troubles.
In the course of this riveting thriller, Lara will learn the significance of six musty Dictaphone cylinders recorded after D-Day by Noel Coward—actor, playwright and, secretly, a British agent reporting directly to Winston Churchill. She will understand precisely why that leather Bible, scooped up by the Nazis and deposited on the desk of Adolf Hitler days before he planned to attack Britain, played such a pivotal role in turning his guns to the East. And she will discover the new secret pact negotiated by the nefarious Russian president and his newly elected American counterpart—maverick and dealmaker—and the evil it portends.
My Thoughts

This book promised a lot with a forged document from World War II and its implications in a present day oil price fixing scheme between powerful countries. Therein lies the issue - whilst clever, it did perhaps try to undertake too much for the one book. Without a doubt, it is a fascinating concept but overall due to the intricate complications, there just lacked a greater depth to both characters and subplots. Towards the end there was a lot of action but it all seemed to come together a little too neatly. I also found the short, sharp chapters did nothing to help in the required elaborations.

Present day figures of American and Russian leaders were easy to recognise, as with the historical figures ranging from Churchill to Kennedy. The conspiracy theory is quite involved with a young JFK suggesting a war on both fronts, to present day oil dealings - be prepared to go with the outrageous ideas and pay attention as, at times, it gets a bit confusing. Personally, I would have preferred the focus to remain on the British attempt to trick Hitler as that in itself was engaging and to have left out the contemporary political dealings.

So whilst an interesting read it did not strongly deliver. The idea of the forged book was extremely clever - even to have it tied in with a present day unveiling. However, the problem was undertaking too vast an arena of characters and ideas and getting lost in modern day espionage. The Alaskan component, Lara’s brother and even her estranged husband were difficult to understandably incorporate - especially Lara’s final decision which was just utterly ridiculous given her thoughts throughout.

If you are at all interested in past or present espionage and conspiracy theories, then you will find this an engaging read. For me, it just tried to do too much and ended up lacking substance in the necessary areas. Much like Lara, the book was ‘pulled in too many directions’.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

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