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Book review: 'Saboteur' delivers thrilling WWII-era plot

Correspondent

‘The Saboteur’ By Andrew Gross. Minotaur, 416 pages, $26.99

In “The Saboteur,” Andrew Gross returns to WWII for a thrilling story about members of the Norwegian resistance who undertake a near impossible mission to stop a Nazi plan to build an atomic bomb. To do this, they have to sabotage the heavy water production at a remote Norwegian factory. Gross, who started his writing career as one of James Patterson’s co-authors before switching to his own high-concept thrillers, has found a niche in historical fiction set in WWII. Gross showed his affinity for this era in his gripping 2016 novel “The One Man” set during the Holocaust, and keeps those high standards in “The Saboteur.”

Based on a true incident, Gross weaves fact into fiction, keeping the suspense high, and the twists based on reality. Gross makes us forget that we already know the outcome of WWII by adding an anything-could-happen scenario to his plot.

“The Saboteur” is Kurt Nordstrum. He and his small band of resistance fighters aim to liberate Norway from the Nazis and the country’s dictator, Vidkun Quisling. The team learns that Hitler wants to control the Norsk Hydro plant because it secretly produces “heavy water” — deuterium oxide — that would be used to make an atomic bomb. Getting to the plant to destroy the heavy water supply is no small feat — it is located near unscalable cliffs above a deep gorge. Then there is the single suspension bridge and, to add to the danger, the plant is constantly under heavy guard. The last time the British Special Operations tried to reach the plant, 40 “elite” soldiers were killed. But the Norwegians won’t give up and the unforgiving terrain is in their wheelhouse.

Gross showcases the team’s bravery without embellishing the facts. No high-tech weaponry or spycraft that one would find in a James Bond or Tom Clancy novel here. Instead, “The Saboteur” relies on the team’s insight, physical skills such as world-class skiing and intelligence. Gross also shows the emotional toll on these soldiers. Because his resistance activities have made him a wanted man, Kurt can’t visit his father because that would make the older man a target of the Nazis. Nor can Kurt afford to fall in love right now.

This Norwegian team’s adventures were the basis of the 1965 film “The Heroes of Telemark,” starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris. In many ways, Gross’ “The Saboteur” delivers an even more edge-of-the-seat thriller.

Meet the author

Andrew Gross will discuss “The Saboteur” at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790, murderonthebeach.com.

Gross also is the guest of honor for Sleuthfest, the nationally known writers’ conference, March 1-4 at the Embassy Suites, 661 NW 53rd St., Boca Raton. Sponsored by the Florida chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, Sleuthfest will feature more than 30 authors, including Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillippi Ryan and James R. Benn, discussing the craft of writing. Agents and editors from G.P. Putnam’s Sons, St. Martin’s Press, Crooked Lane Books and Down & Out Books will be available for manuscript critiques and strategy appointments. Visit sleuthfest.com for more information.

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at olinecog@aol.com.

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