cover image Spandau Phoenix

Spandau Phoenix

Greg Iles. Dutton Books, $22 (544pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93604-6

Stock characters and melodramatic plotting mar this first novel, which posits a Rudolf Hess impostor imprisoned in Spandau while the real Nazi remains free, working from a secret South African stronghold to keep Hitler's legacy alive. In 1987, soon after the fake Hess dies in his jail cell, 27-year-old German police sergeant Hans Apfel accidentally discovers a sheaf of yellow documents amid the rubble of the recently demolished Spandau prison. Hans takes the mysterious papers to his wife Ilse who, with her father, a history professor, translates the Spandau Papers, as they come to be known, from their original Latin. What they uncover is a plot begun in 1941 involving Hitler, Hess, his SS-trained double and Nazi sympathizers in the House of Parliament, to kill Churchill and replace him with the appeasing Duke of Windsor. When word of the existence of the papers--which may indicate a present-day neo-Nazi/South African plan to annihilate Israel--gets out, KGB agents, the East German secret police and a rogue Mossad agent race to locate them. Though clearly written, with some entertaining speculation, this effort is overwhelmed by cliches. Author tour. (May)