Thursday, 24 October 2013

Review: The Boys from Brazil, Ira Levin

The Boys from Brazil

Ira Levin

Kindle edition, first published 1976

Alive & hiding in South America, the fiendish Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele gathers a group of former colleagues for a horrifying project--the creation of the Fourth Reich. Barry Kohler, a young investigative journalist, gets wind of the project & informs famed Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman, but before he can relay the evidence, Kohler is killed.

Thus Ira Levin opens one of the strangest & most masterful novels of his career. Why has Mengele marked a number of harmless aging men for murder? What is the hidden link that binds them? What interest can they possibly hold for their killers: six former SS men dispatched from South America by the most wanted Nazi still alive, the notorious Angel of Death? One man alone must answer these questions & stop the killings--Lieberman, himself aging & thought by some to be losing his grip on reality.

Ira Levin has a knack for making the implausible seem plausible. More than that, he has a knack for horror. The same creeping horror - insidious rather than jumpy, but no less monstrous and twice as unsettling - that permeates his two most famous novels, Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives, is put to good use here, this time with old Nazis as the target.

Ensconced in South America, the ruthless doctor of the Nazi regime, Josef Mengele, has hatched an intricate, elaborate plot. He sends out his best former SS men - his best assassins - to kill a list of men across Europe and America, all men of the same age, all civil servants. The man that stands between Mengele and his audacious plan is Yakov Lieberman, an aging Jewish man with a reputation for hunting down old Nazis and bringing them to justice. Tipped off by a young American investigative journalist, Yakov is in a race to try and stop the murders - and figure out the bigger plan that lies behind them - before Mengele can proceed too far with his evil intentions.

As ever, Levin's writing is taut, and the plot unfolds carefully, never revealing too much, intriguing and fascinating all at the same time. The big picture comes into view slowly, and then all at once, as Yakov realises the intent behind the seemingly bizarre orders that Mengele has sent his men out with. From the opening scene, when Mengele gathers his SS men in a Japanese restaurant to impart his instructions, you can't help but be hooked into the story. The ending is no less gripping - once again, Levin manages to raises more questions than he answers, with Yakov left to make a decision between morality and the prevention of future evil. The tense showdown close to the end of the book is so brilliantly done, so finely executed, that there was no putting the book down until the end.

Overall rating: 8/10

Book source: Bought from Amazon.

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