Peter Leonard should be on your must-read list if he is not there already. His novel, QUIVER, was one of the better debuts of 2008, and each of his books has been exponentially better with each successive release. BACK FROM THE DEAD, his fifth thriller, continues his upward trajectory and is his best book to date by far.
"BACK FROM THE DEAD is a one-sit read; there is no good place to pick up from where you left off. One page flows seamlessly into the next, so quickly that there should be skid marks on the pages of the final quarter of the book. The beginning will hook you, and there are passages that you will underline and write down elsewhere."
Set in 1971, BACK FROM THE DEAD is the sequel to VOICES OF THE DEAD. While it is not necessary to have read its predecessor to enjoy this one, you will want to pick it up at some point just for the sheer joy --- and terror --- of the backstory. The title “Voices of the Dead” refers to the victims of the Holocaust, specifically of Ernst Hess, a Nazi monster who was able to escape justice. Hess began a program of eliminating concentration camp survivors who could possibly identify him. “Back from the Dead,” however, refers to Hess himself.
At the end of VOICES OF THE DEAD, Hess had been shot and dumped into the Atlantic Ocean, seemingly having been served a rough but appropriate justice by Harry Levin, himself a concentration camp survivor. BACK FROM THE DEAD begins with Hess in the Bahamas in ironic circumstances, to say the least, and with the authorities already starting to circle him. Hess has not let his brush with death diminish his homicidal ways; as soon as he is able, he takes steps to eliminate the survivors who got away and anyone else who happens to cross his path. There are others who are actively after him, using an extremely capable and quietly frightening thug named Zeller as a bird dog.
Levin is living quietly in Detroit until the past intrudes into the present, and he becomes aware that the recently deceased Hess is very much alive. At that point, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues, which quickly becomes a three-way dance using south Florida, Germany and Nice as a ballroom before the music ends permanently for more than one of the principals involved.
BACK FROM THE DEAD is a one-sit read; there is no good place to pick up from where you left off. One page flows seamlessly into the next, so quickly that there should be skid marks on the pages of the final quarter of the book. The beginning will hook you, and there are passages that you will underline and write down elsewhere. Speaking of which: the book contains one of the top five best lines I have ever read. It has to do with batteries, among other things, and states one of those immutable truths that is never mentioned in polite or mixed company. BACK FROM THE DEAD is worth reading for that reason alone, but for a myriad of others as well.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 31, 2013