The Accomplice

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

Published by Atria Books on November 5, 2019

The first two-thirds of The Accomplice seems like a well-written story with a mediocre plot. Then the plot takes off, producing the kind of tension and moral quandaries that are the strength of spy fiction.

The novel is set in 1962. Aaron Wiley is an American. His uncle is Max Weill. Max is an Auschwitz survivor. He lives in Hamburg, a location he uses as a base for tracking down Nazi war criminals. Max wants Aaron to take over the cause, but Aaron professes to be content with his work in America as an intelligence analyst.

While Max is pleading his case to Aaron in Hamburg, Max thinks he sees Otto Schramm and promptly has a heart attack. But everyone knows that Schramm died in Argentina. Maybe Max is getting old. And he doesn’t claim to recognize the face. It is the way the man was walking that convinced Max he was looking at Schramm. Max was a young doctor during the war. Schramm let him live, but Max will never forget the things that Schramm made him do at Auschwitz. He is confident that he will never forget Schramm's swagger.

Schramm’s body was identified by a person and by dental records, but all of that might have been faked. Perhaps Schramm felt the need to disappear (again) after Israeli agents kidnapped Eichmann from a street in Buenos Aires. But why would he risk a return to Hamburg? With the help of one of Max’s friends, Aaron discovers a possible answer.

The story takes Aaron to Buenos Aires, where Schramm’s daughter lives. Predictably, Aaron finds himself in a steamy relationship with the daughter, because the protagonist’s inability to keep it in his pants is nearly inevitable in a spy novel. He also meets anti-Semitic priests and diplomats who are well positioned in Argentina, the kind of people who might help Schramm begin his third life.

The plot seems like a mundane Nazi-hunter story until it takes an unexpected twist. At that point, Aaron must confront difficult moral questions. If Schramm is indeed hiding in Argentina, what should be done about it? Israel kidnapped Eichmann so that he could be tried and executed. Is it justifiable to violate international law and national sovereignty to capture a war criminal? If Schramm cannot be kidnapped and spirited out of Argentina  for a trial (a second offense that might not reflect well on Israel), is it morally acceptable to kill him? Is murder justice or vengeance? Does the fact that Schramm is a Nazi war criminal make a difference in how that question is answered? Does it matter that some of the people who directed Schramm's actions are still in Germany and are to powerful ever to answer for their crimes?

One of the characters asks whether a trial would make Israel any safer than a publicized killing. Another suggests that without a trial, the only definition of justice is: “Who has the gun?”  On the other hand, is there a moral distinction between a trial with a preordained outcome and a murder? Perhaps a trial in Germany rather than Israel might be perceived as more just (Schramm, after all, committed no crime in Israel), although the judicial bias in Germany might simply run in a different direction.

Does it matter that any action taken against Schramm will have a profound effect on his innocent daughter? Eichmann was displayed in a glass cage during his trial, a humiliation that Schramm’s daughter would feel deeply if Schramm meets the same fate.

And what if some other use might be made of Schramm? The US has a history of cozying up with notorious killers, including Klaus Barbie, if it serves someone’s concept of national security. Does justice always require death or imprisonment, or might it be better to find a use for a war criminal?

Joseph Kanon gives the reader a good bit to think about while telling a story that, by the end, has enough action and suspense to entertain readers who don’t care about the questions it inspires. Because Aaron struggles to do what he deems morally right, even if it means defying his employer, he is the kind of principled character who is easy to like — whether or not the reader agrees with his moral choices. The winning combination of action, characterization, and close examination of moral issues makes The Accomplice one of the year’s smartest thrillers.

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The Accomplice is a fast-paced, well-tuned espionage/historical thriller filled with intricate characters and plot twists. Kanon paints the scenes so masterfully, that the reader is drawn into the action from beginning to end.

The novel take place in 1962. Aaron Wiley works behind a desk for an unnamed American intelligence agency. He visits his dying uncle, Max Weill, in Hamburg, Germany. Max, a doctor, was pulled from the selection lines at Auschwitz by Otto Schramm a Nazi doctor who reported to Mengeles and performed tortuous experiments on the prisoner subjects. Schramm made Max assist him in his sadistic work, and Max never got over the trauma of being made an accomplice to such horror. After the war, he became a noted Nazi-hunter. Now, convinced he has seen the supposedly dead Schramm, he enlists Aaron's help to bring him back to Germany to face trial.

Aaron tracks Schramm to Argentina, enlisting the help of a German reporter, an Israeli agent and a CIA section head to bring Schramm to justice. He becomes involved with Schramm's daughter as well. Each of these characters has a different opinion as to what should happen to Schramm. What would be adequate justice for the crimes Schramm committed? Is it possible to be had? We hear the Schramm describing his work in his own words, and see him through several varying viewpoints. How far are the members of the team to capture Schramm willing to go? What moral and ethical lines are they willing to cross? How many of them will become accomplices to evil as well?

My thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for allowing me to read an ARC of The Accomplice in exchanged for an unbiased review. All opinions expressed here are my own.
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This kept me reading until the very end. When a Nazi doctor who is believed to be dead is seen walking the streets Aaron is left to bring justice to this Nazi criminal. I was on the edge of my seat with this book. I couldn't put it down. I highly recommended this book. 

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
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Well-Worth Reading!

Joseph Kanon has a proven track record for writing finely paced Cold War espionage thrillers with a flair for atmospheric detail, intriguing characters and suspenseful plotting, and his latest book, The Accomplice, definitely adds to his success. As stated in the book’s description, The Accomplice’s plot involves a Nazi war criminal who was supposed to be dead, the rogue CIA agent on his trail and the beautiful woman connected to them both.

 Without having to resort to a book’s hero being involved in non-stop fights, shootings, and car chases, Kanon has crafted another intelligent thriller that relies on emotional precision and a mastery of tone to compel the reader to turn the pages at a brisk pace in order to try to figure out whom is deceiving whom and what happens next.

I highly recommend The Accomplice to fans of intelligent espionage/spy/suspense novels that are reminiscent of books by other current and former masters of this genre, such as John LeCarre, Len Deighton, Graham Greene, Alan Furst and Olen Steinhauer. 

#The Accomplice  #Net Galley
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The Accomplice is a winner. Going back in time to the travesty of the holocaust, then tracking down the man- a doctor- who was responsible for so much death. He fakes his own death, but Max Weill sees him in Hamburg one day while with his nephew Aaron. Max cannot continue the search for justice, but Aaron can. It's fascinating to how the author structures the story. He kept me riveted to the novel.Praise for his spycraft is justified. He is a master writer. The problem with finishing the book in one day is that I have a long wait to read the next one by this great author. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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This is a great piece of espionage fiction! It was sexy and fast-paced. The dialogue was fierce and tangible. A spy-thriller-romance set against the backdrop of history made for a great read.

It is as described: In 1962, Aaron seeks to justify his Uncle Max’s last wish in hunting down a Nazi, Otto Schramm, who never payed for his war crimes. Otto served as a medical doctor for the Nazis, performing tortuous medical experiments on children and sending others to the gas chambers. Aaron flies to Buenos Aires from Hamburg to find Otto who has been using a different identity. But, after meeting Otto’s daughter, Aaron is unsure if he can fulfill his quest.

Thematic elements: War crimes is obviously a major topic, considering the subject and setting. Aaron internally struggles to rectify capturing Otto. How is justice served to the dead when their lives cannot be replaced? How do you properly punish someone responsible for the deaths of innocent victims? Does it matter how they died, once gone? Can a death serve a purpose, or can it be useful? Is there such thing as a useful death?

My technical notes: The first 17% is mainly dialogue where Max is trying to convince Aaron to find the ex-Nazi, Otto, and bring justice to the Jews that Otto harmed or killed by bringing Otto back to Germany for trial. Aaron’s actual espionage quest in action does not begin until 25% when he arrives in Buenos Aires. Most of the book is energetic dialogue between the characters, the characters in spy-action, or sexy time. The first 15-20% it took me while to adjust to the pacing of the names of characters, because their interaction moves so quickly. Otto Schramm, the Nazi criminal Aaron is chasing, is fictitious.

I really enjoyed the dynamic characters and the complexity of their relationships. I didn’t plan on reading this so quickly, but the relationships and plot were a driving force, so I finished it sooner than anticipated. Thank you to NetGalley and Atria for a copy! Opinions are my own.
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Joseph Kanon’s The Accomplice stirs up a hell of a historical hornet’s nest. It begins with a conversation between a Nazi hunting uncle and his CIA nephew. The uncle, a survivor, believes that he is close to the end of his life. The man he’s been hunting ever since the end of the war, Otto Schramm, is believed to be dead but Max Weill is not so sure. Aaron, the nephew, is reluctant to take on his uncle’s mission. After all, in 1962, the Nuremberg Trials are long over. Some convicted Nazis have already completed their sentences. In spite of Max’s tenacity, its a random siting of Schramm in Hamburg of all places that breaks through Aaron’s resistance.

When Max suddenly dies and Aaron and a friend are attacked trying to get a photo of the mystery man, the plot races off with Aaron. He travels from Hamburg to Buenos Aires, where many Nazis fled after the war—with help from a series of ratlines. The Accomplice is mostly written as a thriller. Aaron has to walk several tightropes to find Schramm and not tip off his CIA bosses to his unsanctioned hunting. There are chases and gunfights. His allies all have agendas of their own that may not jibe with Aaron’s plan to make Schramm somehow face a trial in Germany. There’s even a potentially dangerous dame that Aaron falls in lust with at first sight.

But it’s not all thriller. There are moments when Aaron has to wrestle with his conscience. Aaron’s investigations in Argentina kick up a lot of nasty specters from the past. We learn about Juan Perón‘s warm welcome of Nazis. Alois Hudal gets a mention, too. Most distressing, at least for American readers, we get definite hints that the American government also helped Nazis to flee to help them fight the Soviets. Being just one man means that Aaron’s conscience doesn’t get to do much more than point out that everything about the whole situation is wrong as he makes one compromise after another.

Kanon does justice to the premise, but I couldn’t help but think about The Odessa File, by Frederick Forsyth. I remember liking The Odessa File more than I liked The Accomplice; Forsyth spends more time building up suspense where Kanon races from scene to scene. Also, Kanon skips over parts of the Nazi hunting that I find the most interesting: the digging through archives to find their trail. Aaron knows what city his quarry is in. It’s all just a matter of getting his hands on the war criminal.

I realize that it sounds like I didn’t particularly care for The Accomplice. I found this book to be mostly entertaining and I enjoyed the quandary that the maybe-a-baddie woman character was in. I just which that Kanon had slowed things down a bit. The point of a premise like Nazi hunting is that it gives readers a chance to really think about the dilemma of justice versus political expediency and terrible familial guilt. If you’re looking for a fast read based on actual history, The Accomplice would be a good choice. For readers who like a slower burn and/or a book that makes room for ethical dilemmas, I would recommend The Odessa File instead.
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The Accomplice by Joseph Kanon- Hunting a high profile supposedly dead Ex-Nazi in 1962 Buenos Aires, Aaron Wiley struggles to complete the quest his dying uncle bequeathed to him just before he died. Though he works for American intelligence, he is not truly suited for moving from behind a desk and out into that dangerous field. But there is a woman. A blond beauty, who also happens to be the daughter of his target. Only after meeting her and getting to know her does Aaron realize how in over his head he really is.
Always count on Joseph Kanon to mix romance and espionage in such an intriguing way. Lots of conversation in this book as with most Kanon tales. Always a treat to see what words he will use and how the delivery matches the mood and the players. Might be a little slow for someone looking for blazing guns and explosions, but still powerful in its own way.
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It is Buenos Aires, 1962.  Full of Nazis who fled a crumbling Third Reich to find sanctuary in a country sympathetic to their cause.  But now Peron is not in power to protect them.  The Israelis have kidnapped Eichmann and put him on trial, and they’re all is looking over their shoulders.  Enter Aaron Wiley, CIA agent, who’s taken a leave to find the man who exterminated his family.  What seemed simple enough in the planning gets very complicated on the ground., as he becomes involved with the Nazi’s daughter.  The Accomplice showcases Joseph Kanon’s mastery of historical fiction, his absolute faithfulness to period detail.  Highly recommended.
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Sometimes the phrase "master of the genre" is used too lightly--but not in Kanon's case. THE ACCOMPLICE is a fiercely intelligent, gorgeously paced and peopled thriller, a read which lingers in the reader's mind long after its final sentence.
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Joseph Kanon's specialty is fleshing out those events around the end of the Second World War. "Leaving Berlin" follows famous expatriots as they gather in what will soon be East Berlin; in "Los Alamos " a murder brings the police to the town where scientists from all over the world have gathered to develop the atomic bomb; "Istanbul Passage" presents a neutral city at a time when spy networks are being dismantled, scientists are up for grabs, and Jews are trying to get to Palestine. 

Now we have "The Accomplice," set in 1962, following the capture and execution of Adolph EIchmann by the Mossad. A Nazi hunter sees a reportedly deceased Nazi in Berlin,and sends his nephew to Buenos Aires to find him. Those South American nations, especially Argentina under Peron, hosted a number of Nazi escapees, and, it would seem, had enabled this killer to fake his own death.

It's a good story. But I missed the remarkable ambiance Kanon is usually able to create in this Europe-based stories. Besides street names, I didn't get much of a sense of Buenos Aires during the early '60s. Peron was still alive, exiled in Madrid with his buddy Franco, and the country was morphing into a greater Fascist state. Those undercurrents would have been unmistakable. 

Nonetheless, this is a cracking tale with an exotic setting. I'm in awe of Kanon's ability to discover more and more shades to  World War II and it's aftermath. Ready for the next one.
3.5 stars
~~Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader
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Sharp dialogue and well-developed characters make for a briskly paced read.  Kanin is in fine form and delivers a compelling story.  His stellar reputation in the spy/thriller genre continues to be well-deserved,  Aaron, a desk analyst for The Company takes on his dying uncle’s wish to bring a Nazi war criminal hiding in Argentina to justice,  Jumping from Hamburg to Buenos Aires in the army 1960s, Kanon successfully recreates the time and places his characters inhabit.  Credible, moving and a delight to read,
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