Title: The Bookworm
Author: Mitch Silver
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Setting: Russia and Alaska mainly.
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Europe, 1940: It’s late summer and Belgium has been overrun by the German army. Posing as a friar, a British operative talks his way into the monastery at Villers-devant-Orval just before Nazi art thieves plan to sweep through the area and whisk everything of value back to Berlin. But the ersatz man of the cloth is no thief. Instead, that night he adds an old leather Bible to the monastery’s library and then escapes.
London, 2017: A construction worker operating a backhoe makes a grisly discovery—a skeletal arm-bone with a rusty handcuff attached to the wrist. Was this the site, as a BBC newsreader speculates, of “a long-forgotten prison, uncharted on any map?” One viewer knows better: it’s all that remains of a courier who died in a V-2 rocket attack. The woman who will put these two disparate events together—and understand the looming tragedy she must hurry to prevent—is Russian historian and former Soviet chess champion Larissa Mendelovg Klimt, “Lara the Bookworm,” to her friends. She’s also experiencing some woeful marital troubles.
In the course of this riveting thriller, Lara will learn the significance of six musty Dictaphone cylinders recorded after D-Day by Noel Coward—actor, playwright and, secretly, a British agent reporting directly to Winston Churchill. She will understand precisely why that leather Bible, scooped up by the Nazis and deposited on the desk of Adolf Hitler days before he planned to attack Britain, played such a pivotal role in turning his guns to the East. And she will discover the new secret pact negotiated by the nefarious Russian president and his newly elected American counterpart—maverick and dealmaker—and the evil it portends.
Oh, and she’ll reconcile with her husband.
What I Say:
First of all, isn’t that blurb a little spoiler-ish?
I chatted about this book a little in my previous post. It turns out that I was wrong about it going back and forth in time. The 1940s perspective is told from recordings that Noel Coward made.
This book was a multi-pronged story. You have the historical aspect of it and the “truth” of how Hitler chose his targets. How much truth is there to Coward’s testimony? Where’s the bible? Then you have the Russian side of things and the main character, Lara. She’s a history professor and she’s approached by shady looking guys with dictaphone cylinders and a handsome “reward” if she uncovers the whereabouts of the missing Bible. Then she’s given an even more handsome offer by another party. Who’s working for whom? Who are the bad guys here?
We also have the American aspect of things. Lara’s brother, Lev, just happens to be working in Alaska at an oil field. He makes an unexplained discovery in the daily course of his job and the next thing you know, his American counterpart turns up dead. How does Lev’s discovery and the President of the United States fit into this puzzle?
This was a well-written story. Silver has quite the imagination, which made the book interesting and fun to read. With the Russian, American, British, and German characters, settings, and histories, making a play, there were times when I got lost and had to do a bit of backtracking (mainly at the rushed ending). I don’t think Silver was trying to do too much, necessarily, I think this was just me being me. This book was very political. I’m not sure if Silver was being a storyteller or a conspiracy theorist, lol. I thought the ending felt slightly rushed, but ends were nicely tied off. Maybe a little too cleanly, but that’s purely my opinion.
I gave this two stars on Goodreads simply because I don’t enjoy politics, especially extreme politics. This story very clearly and emphatically took sides. For me, “it was ok”. Purely on the writing alone, I’d give this a very solid three stars. Silver’s storytelling skills are strong, his characters fleshed out and likable, but the politics bogged it down for me.
One last tidbit…The title is incredibly misleading, lol. This is not a book about books or readers at all.