cover image December ’41

December ’41

William Martin. Forge, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8424-9

This so-so what-if thriller from bestseller Martin (the Peter Fallon series) centers on a plot to kill FDR. Right after Pearl Harbor, German agent Martin Browning finalizes his plan to shoot President Roosevelt during the White House Christmas tree lighting. Browning, who’s been working as a haberdasher in L.A., intends to travel cross-country by train. By chance, at a diner, Browning rescues an attractive woman from an attempted abduction. She turns out to be an unsuccessful would-be actor, who’s taken the stage name of Vivian Hopewell and is more than ready to abandon her Hollywood dreams and return home to Maryland. Browning persuades the impoverished Hopewell to pose as his wife aboard the Super Chief, in exchange for a free ride back east. The assassin hopes that ruse will divert suspicion from him, particularly since he murdered his L.A. landlady after she stumbled on some of his secrets. The predictable plot, in which Browning finds himself torn between his assignment and his growing feelings for Hopewell, builds to a contrivance-riddled finale. Genre fans have seen this all before. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media. (June)