Garden of Beasts
I have had people suggest Jeffery Deaver to me before, but Garden of Beasts is the first one that I have read. I really enjoyed it. I thought that it was a well-written piece of fictional history that revolved around a unique hero in the story. This novel is set to take place in Berlin in 1936, a few years prior to the start of WWII. Hitler was working to rearm and build up Germany’s army secretly, so that he would be well prepared for another battle. The unlikely hero in this story is a previous war veteran who, through a series of difficult choices upon his return from war, ended up being a “button man,” or a hit man. Paul Shumann is picky with his hits though, and only kills men who he feel are evil and deserve it. The government secretly solicits his services to “touch off” a man who is integral to Hitler’s rearming Germany. In exchange, Paul will be paid handsomely as well as receive a clean criminal record.
Paul sets off for Berlin during the Olympics, using that as his cover. This book is filled with a lot of believable covert activities that lead Paul through his setting up to assassinate Reinhard Ernst. At the same time, it follows the path of a local police officer who is simultaneously and quite skillfully tracking Paul down. With the help of a friendly asset in Berlin, Paul gets ready to overcome the difficult odds and make the hit. Things continue to go wrong and get harder, but Paul is determined not to give up.
Of course, Paul meets a woman and has a romantic interest in Berlin, to make things even more complicated, and she doesn’t know why he’s really there. This book was full of surprises and it had some twists that I didn’t see coming. I really enjoyed it and I am excited to have found a new author whose books I believe will be able to keep me going for a while. Deaver reminded me, based on this book only so far, of Robert Ludlum and some of his better books. I am excited to continue on with more of his novels and see where else he will take me.
The Tristan Betrayal
I’ve always been a Robert Ludlum fan; his books were some of the first that rekindled my love for reading. I’ve read several of his novels, some amazing, and some I didn’t really like at all. For me, this one fell in between those two extremes. For the past several years, I’ve almost started this book several time, but never quite did, so this time, I finally set out to read it and get it off my “to-read” shelf.
It took a long time, over 150 pages, for me to really get grabbed by this book. The story just dragged on at the beginning without an adequate amount of excitement for me. The story predominantly takes place during 1940, and is about an intricate network of spies that is determined to bring down Hitler and the Nazis. It follows Stephen Metcalfe, an undercover USA agent through various parts of Europe that he is called to work in. At the beginning of the novel, he is based in Paris, but the operation there gets exposed and destroyed, and Metcalfe is sent to an extremely sensitive and important mission to Moscow.
Here he finds and rekindles his love with an old flame, and secretly they set in motion plans to overthrow the Third Reich. The plan they proceed with has the potential to decide the outcome of the war, and Hitler’s fate. It accounts for the decisions that Hitler made during WWII to attempt to invade Russia. Many of Ludlum’s novels seem to revolve around these times, or Nazis, as this one did. There were times of great action and suspense in the novel, but for me, more obvious were the times of almost complacency, were not much was happening.
One thing I disliked about his book was some of the language. Occasionally Ludlum will, in his novels, use a lot of foreign language, as he did in this one. I don’t mind it when the words are defined afterwords, but many of them were not in this one. I feel using foreign words can lend authenticity to a novel like this, but without a translation, sometimes I was left to guess, which may or may not have been accurate.
There was very little crude language in this book, and no details of sex, which I found surprising because the main character was known as a wandering playboy. All in all, it wasn’t the worst Ludlum that I have read, but not close to stealing top spot as my favorite either. It was an OK story, just one that I felt dragged on and could have been better if it had been more concise. I found that I was forcing myself to just push through it once I started it. If you are unfamiliar with Ludlum’s works, I could recommend other novels that I found much better.