Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.
This story might be categorized as “historical fiction,” but the second word almost seems incorrect—the historical details are so well interwoven and authentic that the reader will swear Mr. Brown lived through them. It might also be categorized as “a thriller”—there are thrills and suspenseful twists at every turn of the page. It might even be categorized as “a romance”—the two protagonists are as right for each other as Romeo and Juliet.
Perhaps it is best to categorize this story as a “tale of intrigue, adventure, and romance.” It reminds me of Jeffery Deaver’s Garden of Beasts and Frederic Forsythe’s The Odessa File. It is the tale of Michael Randall, an unlucky POW at the end of WWII, and his quest for closure. Here closure means revenge, a desire so intense that it almost takes him into a dark place where everything else, including his love for Leslie Hodge, comes in a distant second place.
I read this novel in two evenings and then scanned it again with a more critical eye. That first comment means that “the book is a real page-turner” is the appropriate cliché, although this takes on a new meaning with eBooks (the book only has an eBook version). The second means that I considered it worthy of study. I’m a writer and I often do much more than just marvel at another writer’s creativity—I try to learn from it. As entertainment, this story is much better than The Undertaker, the Brown book I reviewed previously. It is also very different and full of deeper meaning. It provides one answer to the eternal question: What must good men and women do when evil walks among them? Dean Koontz has made a career answering this question. Mr. Brown is off to a good start doing the same here.
I don’t know if Mr. Brown is a diver. Living in Ohio, there’s not much chance to practice locally, although I suppose people do dive in the Great Lakes. In any case, the descriptions of the dives off the old Swedish fishing boat down to a sunken U-boat are vivid and exciting. My own overly active imagination was put into over-drive by the underwater battles between the various parties trying to exploit the submarine’s secrets. Two admirable characters died quickly in those waters off Sweden—the U-boat captain and the fat retired cop from New York. I grieved for them as if they were old friends. Both were complex characters—I bet that most readers will share my desire to know more about them.
I have two general complaints. For a more inferior work, they would be deadly. For a novel as good as Amongst My Enemies, I tend to overlook them. The book has both a weak beginning and ending. Let me consider first the ending. After taking the reader on a breathless marathon through most of the book, I found the last part describing the search for the Nazi mastermind to be all too brief. In fact, if I could write such a book, I would have spent many pages on this search and its outcome. As written by Mr. Brown, though, it was a bit of a letdown.
The beginning—two pages of historical prolog—gave away the climax that preceded the ending. I realize that the book is not a mystery. You know who the villains are and what they’ve done. Nevertheless, that beginning set my expectations. I was hoping for a twist, but it didn’t come. Again, if I could write such a book, I would not have included this prolog. (I know agents who absolutely refuse to consider an MS with a prolog—a bit over the top, but I can understand their sentiments.) To an avid reader in the suspense genre, Mr. Brown’s prolog gives away too much.
A very minor complaint is that some re-editing is in order. Various errors that confuse a spell checker are present, including additional or dropped words. Unlike some self-published books I’ve read or reviewed, these errors are not frequent enough to distract the reader and are not as common as I’ve seen in some books, especially eBooks, that originate from the big publishers, especially when they try to squeeze some more out of an old favorite.
In summary, Amongst My Enemies is a marvelous, suspenseful, breath-taking read set in a tumultuous era in Europe, the U.S., and Bolivia. I recommend it.
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