The novel begins with one Conrad Senior flying from
The chink in the armor of
Cartwright weaves these incongruencies effectively. On
"His friends at
Even as Mendel goes on to become an internationally renowned philosopher, von Gottberg, who could have easily found pride of place among the Nazi elite, gets enmeshed in a failed assassination attempt. Who was chasing what, one wonders. Was von Gottberg's supreme sacrifice a way of redeeming himself in Mendel's eyes? And if so, did Mendel set Senior on the trail of von Gottberg's life to atone for his sins of omission and commission?
In following the lives of two historical figures, there is always the danger of the present losing its way somewhat. What scope do the trappings of history leave Conrad Senior? That his three-year old research into von Gottberg’s life has turned into an obsession is apparent when in the beginning, he admits that “it is true that he thinks von Gottberg, at thirty-five, looks just like him”. Conrad’s marriage to the mercurial Francine is breaking down. She has decided to move in with her boss, a man “known and admired for his pioneering work on the incontinence in women caused by childbirth”. In fact, concedes Conrad, Francine is too much a scientist to be comfortable with the life of the mind.
In a story burdened with the weight of so much narrative, it is to Cartwright’s credit that he is able to successfully integrate another motif relating to Adam von Trott’s garroting. The executions of the July 20 conspirators were filmed on Hitler’s orders and Conrad must seek that film to complete the story of Axel von Gottberg. This is how he comes in contact with Fritsch, a Jew and an assistant cameraman at von Gottberg’s funeral, who has kept the secret buried with him for sixty years. He gives Conrad the reel of the execution and also a letter—a crushing, unbearable ode to love and friendship that von Gottberg wrote to Mendel moments before his death.
This is a deeply moving and well-researched work from a first-class writer.--
From Washington Times