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Scott Mackay

Toronto, HarperCollins, 1991. 314pp, cloth, $19.95
ISBN 0-00-223499-8. CIP

Grades 12 and up/Ages 17 and up
Reviewed by Ellen Robson.

Volume 19 Number 4
1991 September

Scott Mackay has published his first novel in an attempt to become a Cana­dian best-selling thriller writer. Al­though he has published short stories in literary journals and newspapers, he wants to be read more widely.

The protagonist of this novel, Goerlitz, is captured by the British during World War II after his crew of a special German U-512 submarine mutinied. He escapes from the pris­oner-of-war camp in order to destroy the submarine before the British dis­cover its secret and to take plans of the British base back to the German com­mand. He is pursued by a British naval officer to Liverpool and Barcelona, where he fled after murdering two Brits. A so-called friend in Barcelona has arranged his transport but tries to take advantage of the situation for his own gain. The British officer, Laurie, is just a step behind until the two end up in a small boat headed to France and the German command. Many bodies and bullets litter their trail in Goerlitz's mission to pass on his information to the almost defeated German army. Al­though Goerlitz comes to understand much of his father's anti-war sentiment, he does not develop as a character. All the secondary characters have little depth or personality and when they are dispensed with, no tears are shed. In fact, it is very difficult to understand or cheer anyone (good or bad) in the novel.

World War II is a convenient histori­cal setting for the novel but the prisoner-of-war camp and the race to Spain and France show little of the hardship and devastation of the war. Many actual events and characters of the period are mentioned but the fighting is far removed from the story. The real excitement happens along the Spanish coast, which was not a major arena of the war. The conclusion is unexpected and imaginative but not gratifying after the excitement of the chase.

The author feels it is not necessary to write about familiar topics, but because this period and the Europeans involved are unknown to a young Toronto writer, the novel does not feel credible. Most heroes outside comics cannot bound out third-level windows and run away or flee with serious gunshot wounds. An adventure story this may be but it is not a thriller. Wait to purchase this in paperback for those senior students or adults who may want something to read on the bus.

Ellen Robson, Winston Churchill Collegiate, Scarborough, Ont.
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