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Wednesday, September 23, 2020


It makes for a gripping read, and one which asks a good many uncomfortable questions. (Review by Margaret von Klemperer, Courtesy of The Witness)

I have been a fan of Joseph Kanon’s post-World War II and Cold War thrillers ever since I came across Los Alamos (published in 1997). Here in The Accomplice, he has moved the action forward to the 1960s, but is still dealing with the fallout from the dark days of the war.

Aaron Wiley, who escaped the Holocaust along with his father and grew up in America, takes leave from his job as a CIA analyst to visit his dying uncle, Max Weill, in Hamburg. Max, Aaron’s only surviving relative, was forced to work with the evil doctors experimenting in Auschwitz but survived the camp and has spent the years since as a Nazi hunter, particularly looking for Dr Otto Schramm who was once his fellow student and later his “protector” and torturer in Auschwitz.

Schramm escaped to Argentina – along with many non-fictional Nazis – and is alleged to be dead, but Max is convinced he has spotted him, briefly back in Germany for his wife’s funeral. And before he dies, Max hands his files and contacts over to Aaron, begging him to carry on the search. Once Aaron is convinced that Schramm is alive, he reluctantly agrees, and with the help of a German journalist, a ruthless Mossad agent and the CIA head of station in Buenos Aires, sets off on his quest.

In Argentina, where Nazis abound, Aaron comes across Schramm’s daughter, Hanna. For a while, it looks as if the outcome Aaron wants – a high profile war crimes trial in Germany – will be achieved, but things get very messy as the complexities of realpolitik take over. After all, as Philippe Sands has so expertly documented in the non-fiction universe, there were many helping hands from among the Allies when the Nazi ratlines were established from Europe to South America, and the motives were often complex – practical maybe but not ethical.

The Accomplice tackles the ambivalence of Aaron’s situation. He is a desk man, and while his own actions are often not above reproach, particularly once he meets the fascinating Hanna, he finds himself in a world, not long after the Eichmann kidnapping, where extra-judicial solutions to questions of guilt and punishment abound. It makes for a gripping read, and one which asks a good many uncomfortable questions. Margaret von Klemperer

The Accomplice by Joseph Kanon is published by Simon & Schuster. ISBN13: 9781471162657