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The Saboteur


The Saboteur

It seems that more and more we are finding history being rewritten lately. I am not referring to the altering of facts but rather the revelation surrounding the unsung heroes whose efforts may have largely gone unrecognized but without whose contributions the wrong side may have won several major wars. The recent AMC series "TURN: Washington's Spies" highlighted the anonymous Culper Ring, made up primarily of civilians, who aided General George Washington in the victorious Revolutionary War effort. Earlier this year, author Mark Sullivan highlighted Pino Lella, an Italian hero of World War II, in his novel, BENEATH A SCARLET SKY --- which is about to made into a film starring Tom Holland.

In 2015, a Norwegian TV miniseries titled "The Heavy Water War" was released, and it centered on the secret missions during WWII that were critical in disabling the Nazi efforts to build atomic weapons. The stars of this feature were men like Leif Tronstad and Knut Haukelid. The missions, codenamed Grouse and Gunnerside, were top-secret involving both British military intelligence and teams of Norwegian recruits whose unheralded actions may have saved the outcome of WWII.

"THE SABOTEUR is a quick and dynamic read that I can't say enough about. All I know is that Andrew Gross is going to have a hard time returning to contemporary thrillers following his back-to-back success with stunning WWII novels."

It is here where author Andrew Gross steps in. After a successful career of bestselling, high-adrenaline thrillers, Gross went a completely different direction with his last work of fiction, THE ONE MAN. It was based on a true story that featured intelligence lieutenant Nathan Blum, who was sent to rescue Professor Alfred Mendl from the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz during WWII. That novel was so riveting and stunning that it wowed both myself and numerous critics who heaped praise on Gross' effort. It seems like he has found a new niche genre in WWII stories based on unsung heroes as THE SABOTEUR is a retelling of the same missions described in "The Heavy Water War."

The lead character here is named Kurt Nordstrum but is based on real-life war hero Knut Haukelid. THE SABOTEUR combines meticulous military research with breathtaking action. The result is a historical thriller of the highest caliber that should gain Gross even more acclaim for bringing to light an interesting and vital WWII story that needed to be told and appreciated by all.

The bottom line is easy to see: If the Nazis gained control of atomic weapons, there would be no stopping them. The fact that everyone who reads this book realizes that they never acquired the use of a nuclear arsenal does not for one moment take away from their enjoyment of it, which is a credit to Gross and his experience as a top-notch thriller writer. History can sometimes come across as dry and unable to sustain interest in a lengthy read. THE SABOTEUR, on the other hand, still throws surprises and plenty of suspense at the reader and makes military history fun.

The military training that Nordstrum and a team of Norwegians --- which even includes a “Yank” from the US with Norwegian heritage --- undergo in the hills of Scotland sets the tone. However, nothing can quite compare to the actual mission. The goal is the destruction of the Norsk Hydro factory in Rjukan, Norway, that produces the heavy water. The mission is in two phases. The first features a team known as Grouse, and the second team, led by Nordstrum, is called Gunnerside. The story about their success is astounding.

The second part of the book presents a more dangerous situation. Nordstrum must return to his homeland where blending in is easy. His mission this time is to scout and select a team of three like-minded individuals who would be set up as radio transmitters, deciphering and decoding German messages. Overall, the peril in which Nordstrum finds himself includes violent winter storms, hidden land mines, thousands of Nazi soldiers aware they are coming, and even his own countrymen who would willingly turn him in to gain favor with the Nazis.

THE SABOTEUR is a quick and dynamic read that I can't say enough about. All I know is that Andrew Gross is going to have a hard time returning to contemporary thrillers following his back-to-back success with stunning WWII novels.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 25, 2017

The Saboteur
by Andrew Gross