cover image The Quest for Anna Klein

The Quest for Anna Klein

Thomas H. Cook. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Penzler, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-547-36464-3

At the start of Edgar-winner Cook's thoughtful if less than inspired thriller, Paul Crane, a young American intelligence operative, interviews 91-year-old Thomas Jefferson Danforth at Manhattan's Century Club. Danforth, who believes he has something to offer the government following the recent 9/11 terrorist attacks, tells Crane about a long-ago threat related to Nazi Germany. Flashback to 1939 when Danforth, then a wealthy New Yorker running an importing business with connections throughout Europe, is recruited by his socialite friend and State Department spy, Robert Clayton, for "the Project." This espionage operation involves Anna Klein, a beautiful, accomplished, and mysterious woman, whom Clayton arranges for Danforth to meet in a bar. It's a terrific premise, as if Alan Furst were writing about Mata Hari, but Cook (The Last Talk with Lola Faye) focuses more on finding meaning in the story than on the story itself. Too much cross-cutting between the mostly irrelevant framing narrative and the more compelling core of the novel doesn't help. (June)