Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Christopher's Ghosts by Charles McCarry
Why I have a copy of Christopher's Ghosts is a mystery to me but I'm sure it came to be in my possession as recommended reading from some publication or another. It's definitely going to be the first and last novel I ever read by Charles McCarry.
The only way I can see anyone enjoying Christopher's Ghosts is someone who has read the entire espionage series featuring Paul Christopher. This particular installment is the seventh novel.
Christopher's Ghosts takes us back to Berlin in the late 1930s, where Paul and his family reside. Despite Paul's family being German, their family is consistently harassed by the Nazis, and the fact that Paul's girlfriend Rima is Jewish doesn't help matters. The Christopher family has one main bully, and this person is S.S. officer Franz Stutzer.
Throughout the first two-thirds of Christopher's Ghosts, we read the awful story of how Franz Stutzer interrogates and tortures Paul and Rima. After a terrible tragedy occurs, the novel fast-forwards many years into the future, when Paul is a grown man and professional spy. After dealing with the aftermath of terrible times Franz Stutzer has bestowed upon Paul's once-happy life, Paul decides to track down the evil Stutzer to carry out his revenge.
So as I read, I'm thinking that Christopher's Ghosts is going to be one of the few rare novels where we actually get to see a person do unto the terrible Nazis what the Nazis did to them. So we read the terrible chapters containing torture, but in the back of our minds, we're thinking, "Oh yeah...but this will all be redeemed at the end of the book when the Nazi dude is getting tortured right back..." but oh, this is so not the case.
This is my first book review EVER that contains spoilers. Hopefully it will be the last.
So in the final chapter of the 1930s portion, Rima is left to drown in the ocean. Paul watches as Stutzer and crew throw her over the side of the boat and the boat drives away, leaving her there.
Paul FINALLY catches up to Stutzer in the last chapter of Christopher's Ghosts. By this time, we learn that over the years Stutzer has managed to become castrated and is a little worse for the wear. Paul has some of his other espionage pals help capture Stutzer and interrogate him, but none of it seems as awful as what Stutzer did to Rima and Paul's family.
I really wanted Paul to have a one-on-one session with Stutzer during which he berates him, calls him names, and tortures him. I was looking forward to some evil, horrible, redeeming torture. But this doesn't happen. We get to the FINAL PAGE of the book, and Paul simply throws Stutzer into the water like he had done to Rima so many years ago.
THIS IS IT?! You've gotta be kidding me.
Christopher's Ghosts angered me so much. It was unfulfilling and the biggest waste of my time. All I can say is: DON'T. Don't read this book.
Charles McCarry's Paul Christopher series begins with The Miernik Dossier (1971) and continues with The Tears of Autumn (1974). His latest stand-alone novels include Shelley's Heart (1995) and Lucky Bastard (1998).
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