Basil’s War

Mysterious Book Report No. 447

by John Dwaine McKenna

Author Stephen Hunter—who wrote the popular and best-selling series featuring a Viet Nam era sniper named Bob Lee Swagger—has just come up with a new character from an earlier and bigger conflict, whose name is Basil St. Florian.  He’s a WWII British Army Captain, a master of wit, wine and women . . . as well as a Special Operations Executive Agent, whose derring-do and bravery are unsurpassed.

In the first of what we can only hope is the launch of a new series, Basil’s War, (Mysterious Press, $23.95, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-61316-224-8) by Stephen Hunter,  protagonist St. Florian is parachuted one night, into occupied France in the Spring of 1943.  His mission: to somehow get from the northern French coast, down to Paris, where his job is to locate a rare copy of a handwritten pamphlet entitled The Path to Jesus.  It was created by an obscure 18th century Scottish clergyman, and held in the access-controlled rare documents section of the French National Museum.  Basil hopes to photograph a half-dozen or so pages . . . then return with them to England.  It seems that the pamphlet is being used by a British academic—who’s a traitor—to send coded messages back to his masters.  The Brits know they have a spy who’s operating somewhere in Bletchley Park, where the code-breakers for the entire Allied war effort work.  St. Florian can’t just steal the pamphlet, because doing so would let the Germans know that the English are aware of the mole and the code would simply be changed.  It’s a situation with the direst of consequences—thousands more deaths because the war could go on until 1946 or ‘47—and the slimmest of chances for success.  Can Basil St. Florian survive a mission with almost impossible odds; can he possibly outwit the smartest of German spy catchers and his SS cohort? You’ll just have to read Basil’s War for yourself and see.  You’ll be glad you did!


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