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Gurr, David.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1984. 364pp, cloth, $18.95, ISBN 0-7710-3663-9. CIP

Reviewed by Ellen Robson

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

In this David Gurr novel, the author continues his expose of war-time espionage shown in Troika* and in A Woman Called Scylla,** which portrayed the wife of the main character in this novel. He hints at further stories that could not be included in this story.

Most of this novel centres on the power struggle between the office of Strategic Services, during the administration of F.D. Roosevelt, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover, in 1945. The Nazis have landed a U-boat in Florida in order to sabotage the Manhatten Project, which was the U.S. development of the atomic bomb. Major Dexter has been assigned by General Donovan, of the OSS, as chief of the Special Directorate XI for Internal Counter Intelligence. As Dexter flies all over the U.S., visiting the secret atomic research sights, the reader meets many strange characters, spies and historically prominent figures of the period, and sets a good description of the different phases of development of the bombs that were eventually dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Because Gurr introduces so many characters and subplots, the novel is hard to follow. It is necessary to use the glossary of abbreviations and history books about the Manhatten project to follow the development of the plot. Although the general population may never know the whole story of the OSS, the FBI and the Manhattan project, this novel assumes the reader has a basic understanding of history and the U.S. in 1945. Scientists such as Oppenheimer, Niels Bohr and Fermi, President F.D.R. and J. Edgar Hoover play major roles in the novel, but General Groves, who was in charge of the Manhattan project, is not named. In general, the character of the spies involved are not as well developed as the historical characters, especially FDR and Hoover.

Although this is an interesting story of the internal workings of the U.S. at the end of World War II, it does not flow easily, nor does the suspense hold one spellbound. Many questions are left unanswered in the novel, which is reflective of history. This novel will be best suited to Gurr fans and an adult audience who may remember or have studied the period.

Ellen Robson, Winston Churchill C.I., Scarborough, Ont.

*Reviewed vol. VIII/2 1980 p.l 15.
**Reviewed vol. IX/4 1981 p.247.

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