cover image The One Man

The One Man

Andrew Gross, read by Edoardo Ballerini. Macmillan Audio, unabridged, 10 CDs, 13 hrs., $39.99 ISBN 978-1-4272-7986-6

Early on in Gross’s riveting WWII thriller, Nathan Blum attends a meeting with OSS spymaster William “Wild Bill” Donovan and his aide, Peter Strauss, in Washington, D.C. Donovan and Strauss hope to convince Blum to undertake a suicide mission: to break into Auschwitz as an inmate, locate Dr. Alfred Mendl, an imprisoned scientist crucial to a project that could win the war, and break him out. Actor Ballerini turns the scene into a fascinating radio drama, with the gruff but charismatic Donovan greeting the bewildered, shy Yiddish-accented Blum with avuncular friendship. Ballerini finds voices for an assortment of Nazis at Auschwitz, displaying varying degrees of snarling sadism. His Mendl is mildly doddering but proud. The physicist’s protégé, Leo, a brilliant chess master gifted with total recall, has several scenes sharing a chess board and a sweetly innocent flirtation with the sympathetic beautiful blonde wife of the sociopathic commandant. These conversational moments, delicately crafted by Gross and splendidly performed by Ballerini, have a profound effect on the novel’s equally well-enacted, action-filled, breathless escape sequence. A Minotaur hardcover. (Aug.)