The Last Nazi by Andrew Turpin shows us that good writing can make even well-examined plot lines interesting and (somewhat) new. After the end of WWII, there seemed to be no end to themes exploring the Nazi soldiers that got away, stolen hoards of gold that reappeared through unexplained front organizations, speculation on what the world would look like if Germany had won the war, and the possible coming to power of a fourth Reich. This novel will revisit a combination of parts of those themes with a slightly new twist that makes this novel an interesting read. There are several mysteries with solutions that are hinted at in a step-by-step manner that should entertain the inquisitive reader’s mind. All this is to say I liked this novel.
Jacob and Daniel were German prisoners forced to work in tunnels in Poland. Boxes of unidentified goods were being stored in vaults at the end of the tunnels. In the Prologue, we have a tunnel collapse. Many are killed and the survivors are shackled for a train trip back to camp incarceration. Because of the excitement of the tunnel collapse and bickering between guards as to who will be blamed for time and work lost, Jacob’s hands were not secured tightly. He was able to free his twin brother Daniel but they had to jump from the train without being able to free other prisoners. We then move forward in time to the present day.
Our main protagonist, Joe Johnson, had a varied past that included stints with the OSS, an organization that later morphed into the CIA. He had a personal interest in hunting down war criminal as his relatives had been incarcerated in one of the more infamous death camps. These days, Joe is a sometime private investigator but also has earnings from giving lectures and collaborating on stories about his work as a Nazi hunter. Invited to a party, Joe meets former love interest and reporter Fiona. The fundraiser was to promote the campaign of David Kudrow, a Republican candidate, and opponent of Mitt Romney. David had a brother, Nathaniel, who had just suffered setbacks in the financial sector and was a bit envious of the increasingly famous David. Their father is Daniel, one of the twins who had escaped from the prisoner train. Daniel now lived in the US, Jacob lived in London. Presidential candidate David didn’t seem to have much trouble with funding. His father and uncle were able to make frequent contributions to the campaign.
Nathaniel, the failed and envious brother likes to drink. In his talk with Joe Johnson, he reveals the name of the camp where his father and uncle had been imprisoned. Joe is surprised. It is the same camp where his relatives were imprisoned. Nathaniel probably knew this. Nathaniel goes on to hint at a dark source of campaign funding for brother David. Nathaniel knows that Joe has won awards for investigative reporting. Joe is hooked and agrees to meet Nathaniel later at a more discreet location for a longer talk. Nathaniel moves on to talk separately with Fiona. Attracted to her, Nathaniel seeds their conversation with more clues as to the source of David’s financial support. Nathaniel suggests a later meeting at a pub to speak further of devious financial goings on. Nathaniel will not meet with either Joe or Fiona.
By this time, and we are only 8% through the novel in chapter three, the reader may have guessed that the escaped twin brothers had discovered there was gold in the boxes being sequestered by the soldiers and that after their escape they had managed to return in the confusion of postwar resettlement, seized (but not stolen) the gold, and were now putting it to good use for the family. But there were problems, ones explored by the rest of the novel.
There were minor mysteries such as: where did Nathaniel go? There were more important mysteries such as: how was the gold or money laundered in a way that it could be funneled to a current US presidential candidate? David was opposing Mitt Romney and sitting President Obama. To accept money tainted with a Nazi past would be almost as absurdly impossible as a US Presidential candidate accepting campaign help from Russia. The novel proceeds with several clever twists and turns as false identities, shell companies, and financial fronts are explored. Joe Johnson is tenacious in his pursuit of truth, far more so than in his pursuit of Fiona.
There are several good subplots. There is gang strife as a younger group of gang members war with their aged leaders. The aged leaders are part of an organization linked with Jacob and Daniel. Investigator Joe has several links to former intelligence colleagues so readers experience a good spy story. Finally, there is last minute action that contributes several surprises to a well-planned ending that brings all parts of the story to a logical ending.
This is a solid read with surprises made more surprising by the paths that readers are enticed to follow. I look forward to reading more from this author.