By Andrew Gross
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Pub Date: August 23, 2016
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
In the popular world of mainstream thrillers, Andrew Gross has become one of my favorite authors. Originally a co-author for some of James Patterson's assembly line turnouts, he has succeeded quite well on his own and, for my money, surpasses the talent of his ex-collaborator with a series of financial-based thrillers starring detective Ty Hauck and several stand alone novels. My favorite is the tense and exciting 15 Seconds...until now.
Yet as much as I knew what the author could do, The One Man came out of left field. While ostensibly a thriller, Gross bases his new novel in the wider spectrum of World War II. It becomes a taut and emotional historical suspense tale that works on many levels. It is a suspense book, a historical novel, and a dramatic story of lost and found relationships. In the One Man, Nathan Blum is able to flee Poland before Hitler invades it. But he is filled with remorse since he entire family had to be left behind and are killed by the Nazis. He is picked for a secret mission that could well be suicide. He is to return to Poland, go undercover into the Auschwitz concentration camp, and rescue a scientist that may have the knowledge to place the Allies in a distinct advantage. He finds getting in is difficult but finding one man who is a needle in a haystack of thousands and getting him out before he and his mission dies may well be impossible.
The German concentration camps are never a pleasant topic. The author must thread a fine line between showing the atrocities and terrors of the camps yet not making so horrific and depressing that we lose the excitement of the story. Gross does this quite well. We follow Blum and the scientist Mendl through their days in the camp and witness the one-foot-in-the-grave dilemmas of the prisoners. It is harrowing and maybe a little too much for some readers who may like their thrillers a bit more escapist. Yet it rings true to history and never loses the fact that this is a suspense novel about the odds of survival and the the possibilities of second chances. The author even throws a few cameos into the mix with the appearance of historical figures like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Wild Bill Donovan. Back at Auschwitz, there are a few particular incidents that happen to Blum, Mendl and a young but brilliant teenager that I will not spoil for you. But suffice to say the overlying theme here is the strengths of relationships in the most unlikely places. With all the thrills of adventure in form of an escape and the descriptive horrors of the camp., it is these relationships that make this novel far more that the historical thriller it is.
Even though Andrew Gross has a significant "cult" following among the thriller fans, this could easily be the book that propels him into the popular best-seller list if he hasn't made it already. it should. But more importantly, it is also quality writing with deeply emotional feelings. I love to see an author go beyond what I think he can do and this is indeed one of those novels.