One might be tempted to dismiss David L. Robbins's latest historical thriller as a rewriting or perhaps a recasting of Frederick Forsyth's classic THE DAY OF THE JACKAL. This should only arise as the result of failing to read THE ASSASSINS GALLERY, an engrossing, riveting work that needs to be judged solely on its own formidable merits.
THE ASSASSINS GALLERY is set in the closing months of World War II. Suspicions have arisen that an increasingly ailing Franklin Roosevelt may be the target of an assassination attempt. Mikhal Lammeck, an expert in the history of assassinations and a special ops instructor, is clandestinely recruited by the Secret Service to determine if such a threat exists and, if so, to thwart it. Lammeck, a United States expatriate residing in Scotland, is initially reluctant but soon becomes engrossed in the hunt for the assassin, who by appearances is as unlikely a murderer as Lammeck is a hunter.
The killer, whom we come to know as "Sarah," is a master of subtle disguise, recruited by an unknown principal to assassinate the most powerful man on earth. Utilizing her looks to pass freely between the black and white community, Sarah is able to slowly but inevitably work her way toward the White House, turning culturally imposed limitations and barriers into strengths while using her own formidable skills to turn Lammeck from the hunter into the hunted.
Robbins's dialogue is absolutely first-rate, capturing the nuanced cadence of the early to mid 1940s. He also deftly weaves his way through the crazy quilt patchwork of race relations during the mid-twentieth century. Washington, D.C., where the majority of the novel is based, was officially not segregated, yet people of color were assigned to second-class status. Robbins takes this point of fact and utilizes it as a key element of his work, fashioning it as a camouflage from which his villain of the piece can operate. These and other elements move the book out of the "what if?" category of fiction into the "maybe so" area.
THE ASSASSINS GALLERY will be of special interest to those who study American history, but any fan of thriller novels or of strong characterization will find much to enjoy here. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010