cover image Fatherland

Fatherland

Robert Harris, Author Random House Inc $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-41273-1

An eerie, detailed alternate history serves as the backdrop for this otherwise conventional crime thriller. The setting is Berlin, 1964, some 20 years after the Third Reich's victory in WW II. Germany and the U.S., the world's two superpowers, find themselves in a cold war resulting from a nuclear stalemate; but U.S. President Joseph P. Kennedy is soon to visit Berlin for an historic summit meeting with Hitler, clearing the way for detente. Meanwhile, cynical police detective Xavier March investigates the drowning of Josef Buhler, former state secretary in the General Government. When the Gestapo takes over the case--ruling it suicide--March continues his investigation at the risk of his life, uncovering a deadly conspiracy at the highest levels of the Reich. With the help of American reporter Charlotte Maguire, he finds hard evidence of the wartime extermination of Europe's Jews, a secret that Buhler and his colleagues have been murdered to protect. Of course March and Maguire fall in love along the way. Harris ( Selling Hitler ) generates little suspense in this tale beyond his piecemeal rendering of the novel's unusual historical setting. The characters are flat and the plot largely predictable. And readers may well question the taste of using the Holocaust as the point of departure for a rather insubstantial, derivative thriller. 75,000 first printing; BOMC selection. (June)