Friday, 26 April 2013

The Quest for Anna Klein by Thomas H Cook

published 2011






The following days included other tours, and during these quiet days of waiting, Danforth gave Anna a crash course on the sort of art Hitler appeared to favor and imitate, a style heavy on traditional representation that ignored entirely any modernist influence.

On the appointed morning, they met in the hotel lobby for the trip to Wannsee, and when Danforth saw her emerge from the elevator he nearly swooned at the transformation. She looked every bit the worldly assistant to a major American art dealer. The clothes were the same she’d worn in Paris, but she’d lifted her collar, padded the shoulders of her jacket, and added a discreet white ruffle to each sleeve. It was the art of an actress and the art of a seamstress, Danforth thought, both now applied to the art of murder. “You look very” — he stopped and waited until he found the right word — “appropriate.”

In Wannsee, a black sedan was waiting for them, complete with a driver who was clearly not a driver at all but a security agent. 



observations: Danforth and Anna are in Berlin in 1939, on an odd adventure. The story is being related many years later, in Washington, by Danforth, to a young man who has come to see him to discuss foreign policy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Although this double structure is very common in books now, it’s not clear why – it is generally irritating to the reader, and somewhat pointless: the story never seems quite worth this elaborate framing device and, as in this case, the extra weight supposedly given by the final revelations seems overblown and pompous. In this particular book, a name is revealed in the final pages to the utter mystification of most readers: it was very useful to be on Kindle, as you could look it up – another reader was reduced to asking other Amazon reviewers if they could tell her who on earth the narrator was talking about, and how she was expected to know.

All that said, it’s a good entertaining read as spy thrillers go, although there never seems to be a trace of humour or amusement in any books by Thomas H Cook. Danforth and Anna have started on one mission, then suddenly changed to another (I didn’t really understand that aspect) and are going to try to kill Hitler. Well, we know that’s not going to happen: it’s a chancy highwire for an author to try to still make it interesting, and to some extent Cook does succeed. But it’s not a book to pin you in your chair with interest and tension.

Links on the blog: Anna is going to try to sit next to Hitler in a restaurant – as Unity Mitford did in real life, though for different reasons – and in The President’s Hat a lowly office worker sits next to the French leader with surprising results.

The 1930s fashion photograph is, again, from the Dovima is devine II photostream.

4 comments:

  1. Moira, I'm interested in your thoughts on this one. I have a fair few Cook books unread, and I'm a bit of a spy fiction fan, but don't seem to read as much of it as I should. Maybe this isn't one to start with though.

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  2. Moira - Thanks as ever for the honest appraisal. There are certain spy thrillers and authors I've really liked. Some in fact are truly excellent. But in general, it's not the sub-genre I go to first unless I'm really keen to read it. Maybe I'll wait just a bit on this one...

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  3. I like some spy fiction very much, but I'm a bit picky! I know Thomas H Cook is very popular indeed, and sells shedloads, and this feels mean, but I've read a couple of books by him and don't quite get it.... Thanks, both, for comments.

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  4. I am determined to try some Thomas H. Cook, and I am enamored of spy thrillers and books set in this period, so perhaps I will try this one. Glad to see your review, was not aware of this book.

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