Ross Thomas is known for his wry sense of humor and clever skewering of domestic and international US politics. He may have outdid himself with this one. A throwback to the very end of World War II in which everyone is trying to establish themselves following the bloody mess the Axis powers made, Thomas creates a caper in which the world’s major powers and some up-and-coming nation’s are looking for an elusive assassin with a penchant for killing Nazis.
Perhaps most famously done in Inglourious Basterds (hence the title), Thomas doesn’t have lantern jawed Gentiles and Jews teaming up to operate behind enemy lines. Instead, chasing the elusive spy are a ridiculous cast of characters headlined by the worst ex-operative ever produced by the OSS and his companion, the well-connected, manipulating, avaricious, lust-fueled descendant of a Romanian count who has dwarfism (I don’t think it’s appropriate to refer to little folk as “dwarves” so I won’t). Nick, the Romanian, has to be one of the more fun characters of Thomas’ oeuvre: he’s witty, clever, a perfect counterpart to the wry, cynical America.
Amidst it all, Thomas gleefully punches all sides: from the living wreck that is the German population to America’s constant and hilarious need to be liked overseas, to the British futilely trying to maintain their grasp on global affairs. This is the book The Quiet American wishes it was and it’s twice as hilarious.
The plot spins its wheels a little in the middle. There are a couple of characters that don’t serve much of a function. It’s almost as if Thomas had an imaginary (or perhaps real) page count to hit so he inserted some unnecessary B and C stories. But whatever. This book is too much fun to dwell on that. And the ending is hilarious. This is a good gateway if you want to learn about Thomas’ style.