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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Period novel with modern day writing
I would probably not have read this book as soon as I learned it was set in WWII as I'm not a fan of historical based fiction. But, assured of a riveting read by herself, I endured. It begins at an average pace, as a tale beign told by an elderly man, and while it describes some unlikely situations (including encounters by our main characters with v senior government...
Published on 27 Jun. 2007 by Liam Given

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Premise and Pacing Undone by Flat Characters
I usually avoid schlocky thrillers, but have a weakness for those that are WWII-related, and so I picked this one up. The plot addresses the real-life question of why the Nazis didn't use chemical weapons (notably nerve gas) during D-Day or thereafter. The fictional answer proposed here is a commando raid engineered by British SOE on a German concentration camp/chemical...
Published on 16 Dec. 2007 by A. Ross


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Premise and Pacing Undone by Flat Characters, 16 Dec. 2007
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Black Cross (Paperback)
I usually avoid schlocky thrillers, but have a weakness for those that are WWII-related, and so I picked this one up. The plot addresses the real-life question of why the Nazis didn't use chemical weapons (notably nerve gas) during D-Day or thereafter. The fictional answer proposed here is a commando raid engineered by British SOE on a German concentration camp/chemical lab with the threefold objective of demonstrating the Allied willingness to use gas themselves, bluffing the amount and effectiveness of the Allied nerve gas supply, and stealing a sample of the Germans' newest and deadliest nerve gas (Soman) in order to reverse-engineer it. As a premise, this is decent enough -- but the execution falls rather flat.

Since the Americans have flatly refused to sanction the commando action, SOE are forced to use non-British agents, namely a Polish Jew Zionist guerilla/terrorist (who apparently appeared in Iles' previous book), and an American pacifist chemical engineer, with the help of some Swedish and Polish partisans. The story alternates between the recruitment and training of the odd-couple commandos, and the drama unfolding within the camp as a beautiful, newly arrived Dutch Jew struggles to protect herself and her children. These separate storylines are stitched together with the clockwork precision one usually encounters in such thrillers.

However one is hard-pressed to become emotionally engaged with any of this since characters entirely one-dimensional. This is probably the largest flaw with the book, though by no means the only one. While the author gamely attempts to portray the horror of concentration camp life, it comes across as shallow, and some might say exploitative to leverage a glossed-over version of real-life horror in the service of a piece of minor entertainment such as this. More mundane flaws include the laughably transparent ruse by which the SOE trick the American doctor into abandoning his pacifist ideals, the two men's improbable revelation of their entire top-secret mission to a contact on the ground, the heavy borrowing of theme from William Styron's classic Sophie's Choice, the awkward framing device used to tell the tale (the American doctor's grandson is told this story forty years later), and the rather clumsy handling of the commando raid itself, whose timing and action are very hard to follow.

All of these flaws combine to undermine the decent pacing and decent premise -- turning this thriller into a bit of a dud.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Period novel with modern day writing, 27 Jun. 2007
By 
Liam Given "Book Bear" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Cross (Paperback)
I would probably not have read this book as soon as I learned it was set in WWII as I'm not a fan of historical based fiction. But, assured of a riveting read by herself, I endured. It begins at an average pace, as a tale beign told by an elderly man, and while it describes some unlikely situations (including encounters by our main characters with v senior government personnel), as soon as the plot switches to Nazi occupied Germany, it absolutely takes off. And doesn't let up. I loved how convincingly Iles paints the images of the nazi concentration camp and surrounding areas and creates villains and heroes which you can easily appreciate in your mind's eye. The plot is gripping, well researched and fantastically imagined and you will quickly forget the fact it is set during the 2nd world war as it has the pop and whizz of any modern day thriller. I assure you, you will not put this book down once you begin.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling subject but bogged down, 17 Oct. 2011
By 
Jonathan Clark "Great Black Hawk" (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Cross (Paperback)
The subject matter is horrific but written with enough candour and sensitivity to capture the horrors and the minute hope of the Nazi Concentration Camp(s) in WWII.
You felt that much of the historical background was an an accurate portrayal of these horrifying events, which made the story more chilling.
He also did a commendable job in both portraying the different factions (Jew, Nazi, British, American) and captured the story in hand about Nazi Germany in WWII without ever being too gruesome or cloying.
Without giving too much away about the story it is told to us by a Rabbi, who describes the story to the son of the principal character.
The Rabbi tells the son that he must tell him the entire story, otherwise the end would not be believable.
The essence of the plot concerns persuading a German/Jew and an American Doctor/Scientist to join together to stop a Nazi poison gas attack against the D-Day Allied troops.
Their mission is to spread poison gas and kill all the prisoners of a concentration camp where the Germans were getting ready to give their high command, including Himmler no less, a demonstration of how effective nerve gas can be.
If successful and Hitler buys its effectiveness it is believed that he would sanction its use at the D-Day Landings.
You get to "meet" Winston Churchil early on and he intuitively fears the posibility that the Germans will use poison gas on the invasion of Normandy Beach and he mastermands this elite force to combat this threat.
The book details how lethal the nerve gases the Germans have developed such as Soman and Sarin which, BTW, was classsed as a "weapon of mass destruction".
The insidious nature of nerves gases, such as these, which are odourless and fast acting are absolutely horrific.
I'm a great fan of Greg Iles and have read most of his books but in the wrong order.
Not that it matters that much but this is very different to his later works which proves his versatility.
Whilst I thought it was an extremely good book I found the characters a bit one-dimensional and whilst I should have really engaged with them 100% found it difficult at times to do so.
It also got bogged towards the end and was somewhat confusing.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat confusing - and too coincidental, 18 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Black Cross (Paperback)
This is a well-written book set in the middle of the Second World War and involves Nazi experiments with poison gas and other atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people. It provides a stark depiction of the horrendous experimentation performed in the name of medical science and the appalling treatment meted out to a nation perceived by the Nazi machine as being sub-human. For that reason alone, the book is worth reading. I've only given it three stars for three reasons. First, because to me the core of the plot didn't really make sense. Second, because of the unbelievable coincidence of the man being sent to kill everyone in the concentration camp suddenly finding that his own father was one of the inmates. And, third, because I got really confused in the final stages, with all sorts of extremely unlikely events taking place and because, despite re-reading some sections more than once, I still had no clear idea about what was supposed to be happening.
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4.0 out of 5 stars COMPELLING, 23 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Black Cross (Paperback)
This is without doubt one of greg iles finest books,it grips you from the very beginning right up to the very end.Set near the latter part of the second world war you get all your baddies and good guys, and a totally riveting storyline.The characters can be a bit bland but overall its still a good read,hence only four stars.So go out and buy it.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great research and imagination puts this book among the best, 7 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Black Cross (Paperback)
I have read this book 5 times and it still manages to take my breath away. The way Greg takes fiction and combines it with true facts is outstanding and makes it a marker for any young aspiring author in this field. I have visited the place where the book is set and this just adds to the imagination and completes the way the book is supposed to be written. All round a great insight into the second world war and should be read and enjoyed by all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A magician with words and imagination, 27 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Black Cross (Kindle Edition)
Horrified at man's inhumanity to man, but I could not but carry on reading, felt every humiliation and excitement at the bravery of all the individual characters.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 17 April 2015
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This review is from: Black Cross (Kindle Edition)
Does not hold your attention as other books by this author has. Sorry to say disappointing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 7 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Black Cross (Kindle Edition)
One of the best books I've read . Superb read by one of my favourite authors.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing roller coaster of a book, 21 Sept. 2003
By 
E. Mumford (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Cross (Paperback)
This book had me hooked from the first page. The story is amazing, heartfelt, heartbreaking. The characters are wonderful and interact beautifully. The author, who is a very talented writer indeed, clearly has a huge interest in the subject matter and his passion comes across in every word. I cannot recommend this book more highly. It is a true classic.
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