Large Print Reviews
By Andrew Rosenheim
A Book Review
By Andrew Rosenheim
Wheeler Large Print, 2013
Genre: Espionage, Thriller / Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Karl Dixon - May 2, 2016
Written by Andrew Rosenheim, Fear Itself is the first book in the Jimmy Nessheim series. Nessheim entered college on a football scholarship, but when he was sidelined by an injury he lost his scholarship and had to drop out of school. Despite this inglorious ending to his schooling, he lucked out and landed a job with the FBI. As the story opens it is 1936 and Nessheim has been with the FBI for two-and-a-half-years, and he's starting to get bored with just hunting down communist, especially when he thinks that there are bigger fish that they should be going after. For instance, he thinks that the Amerikadeutscher Bund (German American Bund) might be starting to pose a real threat to the United States. Established in 1936 after the dissolution of the pro-Nazi group The Friends of New Germany, the Bund claimed to be nothing more than a social organization for German-Americans. In reality, like its predecessor, its real goal was to promote Nazi Germany and a pro-Nazi agenda. Nessheim's investigation leads him to believe that the Bund is preparing to engage in acts of sabotage, and perhaps even worse, all in an effort to ensure that should there be a war, the U.S. will stay out of it...
Unfortunately for Nessheim, his superiors do not initially believe him. Even if they did, it would not really have mattered because under the directorship of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI's main goal was simply to hunt down communist and other people and groups that Hoover felt were subversives. However there is one man in the FBI, Harry Guttman, who does think that the Bund might be a threat to the country and he hooks Nessheim into an undercover scheme which, if found out, could get them both kicked out of the FBI.
Filled with red herrings, assassinations and assassination attempts, and a solid dose of accurate history, Fear Itself is a decent novel. It is not, however, a great one. While the story was interesting enough to keep my interest, it is rich in detail but low on action, the story lacks depth, the characters are never fully developed, and I found the ending a bit of a let down. However, it does show a lot of promise, enough so that I plan on giving, The Little Tokyo Informant, the second book in the series a try, if I can find it in large print or other accessible version.
While I think that Fear Itself shows a lack of maturity in the skills of the author, it is still a decent book. The historical aspects of the book are accurate, and the author provides some interesting insights into the working of the FBI in the late 1930's and into America's isolationist tendencies. As the book hints, would the U.S. have entered World War II when it did if Franklin D. Roosevelt had not been reelected for a third term, and if so, how might the outcome of the war differed? In addition, although not full of action scenes, the story does move along at a good pace and it is ideal for those times when you don't want anything too heavy to read, such as at the beach on when on a plane. If I had to rate this book, I'd give it three-and-a-half-stars out of five, or maybe four simply because it shows so much promise that I'm willing to give the author another try.
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- Billy Boyle, by James R. Benn.
Billy Boyle has left the Boston Police Force behind to join the army. However, he quickly finds that he enjoys police work better than fighting Nazis. He gets to put his detective skills to use when he is assigned to a General's staff and given the task of tracking down a spy in this World War II mystery.
- The Spies of Warsaw, by Alan Furst.
Set in Warsaw, Poland in 1937, this is a thrilling spy novel that finds Uhl, a German Engineer and French spy, on the run from the Gestapo. It falls upon his handler, Colonel Mercier to save his agent and the information he carries.
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