"Blood of the Reich" by William Dietrich
Harper, 420 pp., $25.99
Reviewed by David Marshall James
The past few weeks have seen the publication of the thriller "The Devil Colony."
And the thriller "The Vault."
Now, here comes "Blood of the Reich."
Thank you, ma'am. Or rather, thank you, sir-- as in author William Dietrich, quite the accomplished hand at this genre.
Of the three titles, this one proves the most Indiana Jonesy, much like watching "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for the first time.
Well, it has Nazis, as the title would indicate, and they're after whatever mystical powers can be obtained by seeking the legendary Tibetan city of Shambhala. Any advantage in conquering the World, and all that.
Into the fray steps wealthy (family money), devilishly handsome, and demonstratively virile New York City museum curator Benjamin Hood.
Would he mind, asks the U.S. government, singlehandedly thwarting the Nazi expedition? And on his nickel, please, this being 1938, and seeing as how the economy's still recovering from the Depression, and after all, he is a patriot, right?
He also happens to have a distasteful history with the leader of the German mission into Tibet, Kurt Raeder. Not surprisingly, there was a woman involved in an imbroglio resulting from a previous international scientific exploration of the country. Did Raeder push the woman's husband over a cliff, so he could have her for himself? Did Hood then fall in love with her? An unresolved mess.
You can bet your yak butter that she's re-entering the picture.
En route from NYC, Hood has a swell time mile-highing it with a bored socialite over the Pacific, those being the days when you could have your own cabin on a plane, and the vino and dining were strictly five-star.
(Of the three thrillers, this one achieves an NC-17 rating, too.)
Once in China, Hood winds up with a quick-quipping, gum-chewing, joysticking dame who's going to get him through the perilous country (at war with Japan, right before they were at war with the U.S.) on a literal wing and a prayer.
Hood and Beth Calloway make a delightfully high-flying pair, and Dietrich's 1938 plot comes up aces.
His modern-day plot never lacks for its own thrills; however, the prewar glamour is so artfully imbedded in the earlier portion that the reader notices the difference.
As Gore Vidal would say, "We had real people then": People who would drive a finger into a lethargically lethal bullet wound in order to expedite the bleeding out and inevitable expiration, so the enemy would not have the opportunity to torture any secrets out of them.
The present-day plot involves a self-professed office "cubicle-ist" who is swept up in a plot by fascists who intend to pick up where Hitler left off, to establish a Fourth Reich. Accordingly, they're hotly pursuing whatever they can recover from that 1938 square-off to Shambhala.
This section of the novel gains some real juice when its characters make it to Tibet themselves, where the author introduces a thoroughly enjoyable character-- an ex-pat American whose Eastern spiritual journey has gone bust, so he's taken up shlepping tourists still possessed of that mystical glow.
Dietrich's superior stylistics keep the reader on track with the back-and-forth plots in this engrossing action/adventure novel that crosses the decades and circles the globe.
If you're partial to the novels of James Rollins and/or Boyd Morrison, then you'll love this one.
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