Friday, August 26, 2016
Friday Forgotten (or Overlooked) Books: THE EYE OF THE ABYSS (2003) and THE IRON HEART (2009) by Marshall Browne
I've written about these two books before, in fact, these are the links to my full reviews: here and here.
But I'm currently rereading (for the third time) THE IRON HEART, the second Franz Schmidt book and enjoying it as much as I did the first two times and so I've decided to quickly write about Browne's books yet again, this time in brief. Wouldn't want you to think I'm over-zealous or anything.
Suffice to say, I love Marshall Browne's thrillers.
What these two books are about:
It is 1939, Berlin seethes with Nazi fervor and virulence. The gloom-filled city appears as if dressed for a funeral. Down these mean streets walks Franz Schmidt, the the slightly handicapped (one eye lost to a band of brown shirted hooligans) bank auditor and hero of our tale. Small in stature, but comely of feature and blessed with luck and a natural cunning, he is the perfect double agent. Although that's certainly not what he started out to be.
(When was the last time an accountant (okay, auditor) was the hero of a book?)
After the radical life altering events in THE EYE OF THE ABYSS, Schmidt now finds himself under the shadowy protection of a Nazi higher-up, Martin Von Streck. Von Streck is a man working to foil Hitler from inside the Fuhrer's upper echelons. 'Trust no one.' is the operating motto and if one or two of the good guys are slaughtered by the wayside, then whoever is left continues the fight. (These are men who sew capsules of cyanide into the cuffs of their suits and uniforms - just in case.) Though their tactics are sometimes hard to define as 'good' - they are necessary. There appears to be no clean way to fight Nazis. Schmidt has learned that readily enough, though he is still attempting to hold true to a heroic vision of his knightly ancestors and oh, by the way, save his own hide.
Both these books would make for nail-bitingly exciting movies and, happy to say, both of them have a couple of strong roles for women. THE IRON HEART has an especially good villainess (do we use that word anymore?), a tall Teutonic bank executive (!) who salivates over Hitler and spouts things like, 'The Fuhrer wants peace!' and means it. Not to mention, she has a gusto for sex with her nasty boyfriend, a Gestapo guy named Sack who likes to dress up and slink around as his hero, Goebbels.
As slimy a duo of dangerous villains as you will ever meet.
Marshall Browne, again, manages to combine poignancy and a pulse pounding race against time not only to save a young woman from certain doom, but also to save an important Big Mission (Schmidt must take photos of certain secret plans!), and afterwards save Schmidt himself from the Gestapo. In the end there is retribution and a daring escape to Switzerland (not by Schmidt who must stay behind and continue to undermine the Reich in whatever way Von Streck sees fit.) which is so visual it's almost as if you're watching it unfold.
If you enjoy, as I do, reading books set during the years just before or during WWII, if you enjoy well created characters and suspenseful plots not to mention dark intrigue and consummate evil villains (the Gestapo! The SS!), then these books are definitely for you.
But though THE EYE OF THE ABYSS is slightly easier to find in this country, good luck with THE IRON HEART. For reasons that I cannot figure out, it is still not readily available here. Browne is an Australian writer and unfortunately not all his books are sitting in wait at local bookstores, online or in libraries. The reasoning continues to eludes me.
Really a shame, because if you can get your hands on Browne's books you'll discover a wonderful writer with an inventive mind, a knack for telling exciting stories and a gift for creating memorable characters. Grab whichever book you can find. This is one time when it isn't necessary to read them in order.
While I keep hoping for a third installment in the Franz Schmidt saga that will be available in this country, I'm not holding my breath. A while back I exchanged some emails with Marshall Browne and he hinted that a third book might be in the offing. So we'll just have to wait and see.
Since this is Friday, don't forget to head on over to author Patricia Abbott's blog, Pattinase to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.