This excellent spy thriller begins in World War II London, where a struggle to infiltrate each other's spy networks is the primary focus of MI5 and the Germans. Double agents are everywhere, each side attempting to turn one against another. Adding to the urgency, it is only days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
London is a cesspool of nefarious activity during this period, opposing factions meeting secretly to further their private agendas, the Germans as rigorous as the English, the stakes far too high for the losing side, each group driven by intense patriotism and allegiance.
In service of gathering German intelligence, Tom Wall, an American who has joined the British forces, is convinced to impersonate his brother, Earl, who has disappeared. Earl remains a cipher, a critical contact for Sondegger, a Nazi agent recently captured in London. Tom believes his brother a traitor who is responsible for an unconscionable loss of troops in a recent battle in Crete.
If Tom must cooperate with MI5 and interface with Sondegger to get to his brother, so be it; but at their first contact, Sondegger makes it clear that he knows Tom is not Earl. Tom keeps this critical information from the Brits, unsure what to do with this knowledge but unwilling to lose his temporary autonomy. Having difficulty keeping his thoughts clear, Tom is distracted by pain and medication from his recent injuries.
Sondegger is savage and unpredictable, taken captive on his own terms with a secret mission in mind. No matter what the precautions, the Brits continually underestimate his cunning. The German keeps his own counsel, planting hints of Earl's whereabouts to Tom but engineering his own plan in which Tom Wall plays a central part. While Tom ponders his brother's betrayal and Sondegger's information, yet another power player in the vast spy network has plans of his own for Tom, sending two thugs to detain and question Earl's brother.
The characters play out their roles mere days before Pearl Harbor, a race against time with thousands of lives at stake. Tom is the pawn of all the players - Sondegger, Earl, his wife, Harriet, MI5 and the OSS - but Tom is ignorant of his part, instinctively pursuing his brother for a moment of truth.
The author frames his story flawlessly, building the tension with each chapter as the operatives act out every minute detail of an ingenious plot. Time and place is perfectly rendered in a harrowing tale that is impossible to put down until all unravels in a burst of violence. Ross delivers a powerful rendition of a war-torn country riddled with spies, murderous fascists and an idealistic man tormented by the senseless waste of his troops, determined to mete out justice regardless of the personal cost. Evil geniuses and patriotic heroes dance a macabre tango towards oblivion, where bombs light up the night sky and Americans watch pensively, unaware of the great conflagration soon to hit a quiet Hawaiian naval base.