Berkley/Penguin Random House, $27.00, 372 pages, ISBN 978-0-425-28156-7
Late last year an authentic, entertaining, and exciting new detective series hit the bookstores and became an instant success. Part crime fiction, part historical fiction and part military fiction, the novel featured a U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) named Mason Collins. He’s a Criminal Investigations Division (CID) Officer in Occupied Germany just after the Third Reich’s defeat and unconditional surrender. In his debut entitled Ruins of War, CWO Collins was on the hunt for a sadistic, cunning and demented serial killer in the devastated city of Munich. It was one of the best first novels I’ve reviewed . . . and a yarn I didn’t think could be surpassed. Damn! Was I wrong.
Spoils of Victory, by John A. Connell . . . the second Mason Collins thriller . . . is an absolute barn burner the likes of which we haven’t seen since Ludlum or Clancy’s first. Yeah. He’s that good.
As the novel begins, Collins has been transferred to the alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It’s an area that’s intact–untouched by the allied bombing campaigns—the place many war criminals transit before fleeing Europe and the war crimes tribunals, and it’s a place where much of the stolen treasure looted from the banks, museums and Jews of the European occupied territory is situated. Despite its storybook setting and fairytale appearance, Garmisch is a city on the verge of anarchy. Rival gangs, consisting of ex-Nazis, former POWs, deserters from various armies and plain old criminals are fighting for control of a black market teeming with the booty looted from entire continents. It’s a target-rich environment for a criminal investigator like Collins, but the appearance of a new, and utterly ruthless group that’s bent on taking over by killing all the competition is bad news of the worst kind for the detective. When another undercover operator and his mistress is murdered, right after telling Collins that Allied OSS (Office of Secret Services) operatives are responsible for the black market takeover, he thinks they’re being protected by high-ranking army of occupation officers. Collins doesn’t know who to trust, or how high up the chain of command the corruption goes. With all of Europe in chaos and tens of tens of millions of looted dollars in possible gains to be had, the most honest of officers might be tempted to go to the dark side, even at the risk of their careers. When the attempts on his life begin, Collins is sucked into an ever-greater, ever-widening, ever-deadlier maelstrom of corruption, conspiracy and criminality from which he may not survive.
You’ll just have to read the book to find out if he does, or not, in this electrifying sophomore novel from a monster talent. His name is John A. Connell.