cover image The Ventriloquists

The Ventriloquists

E.R. Ramzipoor. Park Row, $26.99 (544p) ISBN 978-0-7783-0815-7

Ramzipoor’s magnetic debut, based on the true story of an intricate WWII propaganda scheme, takes place in the fall of 1943 in Nazi-occupied Belgium. Anticipating an Allied invasion, Gruppenführer August Wolff, head of Germany’s new Ministry of Perception Management, plans an ambitious campaign to circulate information that’s alleged to come from the Resistance but is really the product of his office. He rounds up four members of the underground group the Front de l’Indépendance and orders them to publish an issue of its newspaper, La Libre Belgique, that looks and reads like other copies but portrays the Allies in an unflattering light. The leader of the quartet, Marc Aubrion, knows they will be executed at the end of the project, so he convinces them to die for the cause: they will secretly and concurrently create a black propaganda version of the collaborationist paper Le Soir, to poke fun at the Nazis and give Belgians a much-needed psychological boost. To assist his team—prostitute Lada Tarcovich, editor Theo Mullier, and professor Martin Victor—Aubrion recruits a local teenager called Gamin, an expert at newspaper distribution and arson. Over 18 jam-packed days that end with a big bang, the lives of all the members of the group will be changed. Sprawling and ambitious, with crisp pacing and fully realized characters, this will fascinate anyone looking for an unusual, enthralling war story.[em] (Aug.) [/em]