cover image Diary of a Dead Man on Leave

Diary of a Dead Man on Leave

David Downing. Soho Crime, $27.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-61695-843-5

Downing (the John Russell series) has never been better than in this moving and elegiac thriller framed as a diary written by a German calling himself Josef Hofmann. In April 1938, Hofmann returns to his native country on behalf of the Communist International organization. The leaders of the Communist Party want to know whether “there are still enough Communists in Germany brave or foolhardy enough to constitute a significant fifth column inside Hitler’s Reich.” Hofmann, a member of the Comintern’s International Liaison Section, is ridden with guilt over a lengthy list “of those I failed to help because I was too busy helping everyman.” In the town of Hamm, a former stronghold of the country’s Communist Party, Hofmann seeks to locate any survivors among 19 party members who worked there when the Nazis seized power and gauge their current loyalties while keeping his own hidden. Meanwhile, he becomes emotionally involved with the family in whose boarding house he’s staying, an entanglement that may compromise his assignment. Le Carré fans will be pleased. [em]Agent: Charlie Viney, Viney Agency. (Apr.) [/em]