The Man on the Train

W. J. Chaput, Author St. Martin's Press $15.95 (246p) ISBN 978-0-312-51112-8
Fifty-eight years old, with a wooden leg and recently recovered from a heart attack, naval intelligence officer Frank Kemper is dispatched, in December 1944, on what seems to be a routine detail. He goes to Richmond, Vermont, near the Canadian border, to confirm the suicide of Leonard Baskins. Ostensibly a paint salesman, Baskins was a courier for the Abwerh. In Richmond, Kemper learns that cold-hearted banker Morrison Menard and schoolteacher Dorcas Baldwin, keeping a clandestine assignation, have perished in a boathouse fire. Like Baskins, they, too, were collaborators and likewise inefficient and greedy. All three, it turns out, are the victims of Paul Steicher, an SS agent whose mission is to assassinate Winston Churchill when he passes through Richmond aboard a train on his way to confer with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Though would-be Churchill assassinations are virtually a genre, this first novel is distinguished by rich characterization and a narrative that skillfully leaps from Steicher to Kemper and never lags. The dialogue is also first rate. (December 15)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1986
Release date: 01/01/1986
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