It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of the LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***
Tricia Goyer is the author of several books, including Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights, both past winners of the ACFW’s Book of the Year Award for Long Historical Romance. Goyer lives with her family in Montana.
Mike Yorkey is the author or coauthor of dozens of books, including the bestselling Every Man’s Battle series. Married to a Swiss native, Yorkey lived in Switzerland for 18 months. He and his family currently reside in California. (ISBN#9780800733360, 336pp, $13.99)
In the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg confidently lugged a sturdy briefcase into Wolfsschanzeâ€”Wolfâ€™s Lairâ€”the East Prussian redoubt of Adolf Hitler. Inside the black briefcase, a small but powerful bomb ticked away, counting down the minutes to der FÃ¼hrerâ€™s demise.
Several generals involved in the assassination plot arranged to have Stauffenberg invited to a routine staff meeting with Hitler and two dozen officers. The one oâ€™clock conference was held in the map room of Wolfsschanzeâ€™s cement-lined underground bunker. Stauffenberg quietly entered the conference a bit tardy and managed to get close to Hitler by claiming he was hard of hearing. While poring over detailed topological maps of the Eastern Frontâ€™s war theater, the colonel unobtrusively set the briefcase underneath the heavy oak table near Hitlerâ€™s legs. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, Stauffenberg excused himself and quietly exited the claustrophobic bunker, saying he had to place an urgent call to Berlin. When a Wehrmacht officer noticed the bulky briefcase was in his way, he inconspicuously moved it away from Hitler, placing it behind the other substantial oak support. That simple event turned the tide of history.
Moments later, a terrific explosion catapulted one officer to the ceiling, ripped off the legs of others, and killed four soldiers instantly. Although the main force of the blast was directed away from Hitler, the German leader nonetheless suffered burst eardrums, burned hair, and a wounded arm. He was in shock but still aliveâ€”and unhinged for revenge.
Stauffenberg, believing Hitler was dead, leaped into a staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften. They talked their way out of the Wolfsschanze compound and made a dash for a nearby airfield, where they flew back to Berlin in a Heinkel He 111. When news got out that Hitler had survived, Stauffenberg and three other conspirators were quickly tracked down, captured, and executed at midnight by a makeshift firing squad.
An enraged Hitler did not stop there to satisfy his bloodlust. For the next month and a half, he instigated a bloody purge, resulting in the execution of dozens of plotters and hundreds of others remotely involved in the assassination coup. The Gestapo, no doubt acting under Hitlerâ€™s orders, treated the failed attempt on the FÃ¼hrerâ€™s life as a pretext for arresting 5,000 opponents of the Third Reich, many of whom were imprisoned and tortured.
What many people do not know is that Hitlerâ€™s manhunt would dramatically alter the development of a secret weapon that could turn the tide of the war for Nazi Germanyâ€”the atomic bomb.
This is that story . . .
Saturday, July 29, 1944
He hoped his accent wouldnâ€™t give him away. The young Swiss kept his head down as he sauntered beneath the frescoed archways that ringed the town square of Waldshut, an attractive border town in the foothills of the southern Schwarzwald. He hopped over a foot-wide, waterfilled trench that ran through the middle of the cobblestone square and furtively glanced behind to see if anyone had detected his presence.
Even though Switzerland lay just a kilometer or two away across the Rhine River, the youthful operative realized he no longer breathed free air. Though he felt horribly exposedâ€”as if he were marching down Berlinâ€™s KurfÃ¼rstendamm screaming anti-Nazi slogansâ€”he willed himself to remain confident.
His part was a small but vital piece of the larger war effort. Yes, he risked his life, but he was not alone in his passion. A dayâ€™s drive away, American tanks drove for the heart of
Parisâ€”and quickened French hearts for libÃ©ration. Far closer, Nazi reprisals thinned the ranks of his fellow resisters. The young man shuddered at the thought of being captured, lined up against a wall, and hearing the click-click of a safety being unlatched from a Nazi machine gun. Still, his legs propelled him on.
Earlier that morning, heâ€™d introduced himself as Jean- Pierre to members of an underground cell. The French Resistance had recently stepped up their acts of sabotage after the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead two weeks earlier, and theyâ€™d all taken nom de guerres in their honor.
Inside the pocket of his leather jacket, Jean-Pierreâ€™s right hand formed a claw around a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol. His grip tightened, as if squeezing the gunâ€™s metallic profile would reduce the tension building in his chest. The last few minutes before an operation always came to this.
His senses peaked as he took in the sights and sounds around him. At one end of the town square, a pair of disheveled older women complained to a local farmer about the fingerling size of the potato crop. A horse-drawn carriage, transporting four galvanized tin milk containers, rumbled by while a young newsboy screamed out, â€œNachrichten!â€ The boyâ€™s right hand waved day-old copies of the Badische Zeitung from Freiburg, eighty kilometers to the northwest.
Jean-Pierre didnâ€™t need to read the newspaper to know that more men and women were losing their lives by the minute due to the reprisals of a madman.
Though the planned mission had been analyzed from every angle, there were always uncertain factors that would affect not only the outcome of the mission but who among them would live. Or die.
Their task was to rescue a half-dozen men arrested by local authorities following the assassination attempt on Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler. If things went as Jean-Pierre hoped,
the men would soon be free from the Nazisâ€™ clutches. If not, the captivesâ€™ fate included an overnight trip to Berlin, via a cattle car, where they would be transported to Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8. The men would be questionedâ€”tortured if they werenâ€™t immediately forthcomingâ€” until names, dates, and places gushed as freely as the blood spilling upon the cold, unyielding concrete floor.
Not that revealing any secrets would save their lives. When the last bit of information had been wrung from their minds, theyâ€™d be marched against a blood-spattered wall or to the gallows equipped with well-stretched hemp rope. May God have mercy on their souls.
Jean-Pierre willed himself to stop thinking pessimistically. He glanced at his watchâ€”a pricey Hanhart favored by Luftwaffe pilots. His own Swiss-made Breitling had been tucked inside a wooden box on his nightstand back home, where he had also left a handwritten letter. A love note, actually, to a woman who had captured his heartâ€”just in case he never returned. But this was a time for war, not love. And he had
to keep reminding himself of that.
Jean-Pierre slowed his gait as he left the town square and approached the townâ€™s major intersection. As he had been advised, a uniformed womanâ€”her left arm ringed with a red
armband and black swastikaâ€”directed traffic with a whistle and an attitude.
She was like no traffic cop heâ€™d ever seen. Her full lips were colored with red lipstick. Black hair tumbled upon the shoulder epaulettes of the Verkehrskontrolleâ€™s gray-green
uniform. She wielded a silver-toned baton, directing a rambling assortment of horse-drawn carriages, battered sedans, and hulking military vehicles jockeying for the right of way.
She looked no older than twenty-five, yet acted like she owned the real estate beneath her feet. Jean-Pierre couldnâ€™t help but let his lips curl up in a slight grin, knowing what was
to come. â€œEntschuldigung, wo ist das Gemeindehaus?â€ a voice said beside him. Jean-Pierre turned to the rotund businessman in the fedora and summer business suit asking for directions to City Hall.
â€œIch bin nicht sicher.â€ He shrugged and was about to fashion another excuse when a military transport truck turned a corner two blocks away, approaching in their direction.
â€œEs tut mir Leid.â€ With a wave, Jean-Pierre excused himself and sprinted toward the uniformed traffic officer. In one quick motion, his Mauser was drawn.
He didnâ€™t break stride as he tackled the uniformed woman to the ground. Her scream blasted his ear, and more cries from onlookers chimed in.
Jean-Pierre straddled the frightened traffic officer and pressed the barrel of his pistol into her forehead. Her shrieking immediately ceased.
â€œDonâ€™t move, and nothing will happen to you.â€
Jean-Pierre glanced up as he heard the mud-caked transport truck skid to a stop fifty meters from them.
A Wehrmacht soldier hopped out. â€œHalt!â€ He clumsily drew his rifle to his right shoulder.
Jean-Pierre met the soldierâ€™s eyes and rolled off the female traffic officer.
A shot rang out. The German soldierâ€™s body jerked, and a cry of pain erupted from his lips. He clutched his left chest as a rivulet of blood stained his uniform.
â€œNice shot, Suzanne.â€ Jean-Pierre jumped to his feet, glancing at the traffic cop, her stomach against the asphalt with her pistol drawn.
Suzanne rose from the ground, crouched, and aimed.
Her pistol, which had been hidden in an ankle holster, was now pointed at the driver behind the windshield. The determined look in her gaze was one Jean-Pierre had come to
One, two, three shots found their mark, shattering the truckâ€™s glass into shards. The driver slumped behind the wheel.
As expected, two Wehrmacht soldiers jumped out of the back of the truck and took cover behind the rear wheels.
Before Jean-Pierre had a chance to take aim, shots rang out from a second-story window overlooking the intersection.
The German soldiers crumbled to the cobblestone pavement in a heap.
â€œLos jetzt!â€ He clasped Suzanneâ€™s hand, and they sprinted to the rear of the truck. Two black-leather-coated members of their resistance group had already beaten them there.
Jean- Pierre couldnâ€™t remember their names, but it didnâ€™t matter.
What mattered was the safety of the prisoners in the truck. Jean-Pierre only hoped the contactâ€™s information had been correct.
With a deep breath, he lifted the curtain and peered into the truck. A half-dozen frightened men sat on wooden benches with hands raised. Their wide eyes and dropped jaws displayed their fear.
â€œDonâ€™t shoot!â€ one cried.
The sound of a police siren split the air.
â€œEveryone out!â€ Jean-Pierre shouted. â€œIâ€™ll take this one. The rest of you, go with them.â€ He pointed the tip of his Mauser at the men in leather jackets.
The sirens increased in volume as the speeding car gobbled up distance along the Hauptstrasse, weaving through the autos and pedestrians. An officer in the passengerâ€™s seat leaned out, rifle pointed.
Jean-Pierre leaned into the truck and yanked the prisonerâ€™s arm. Suzanne grabbed the other. â€œMove it, come on!â€
Bullets from an approaching vehicle whizzed past Jean- Pierreâ€™s ear. The clearly frightened prisoner suddenly found his legs, and the three sprinted away from the speedingcar.
Jean-Pierreâ€™s feet pounded the pavement, and he tugged on the prisonerâ€™s arm, urging him to run faster. He could hear the screech of the tires as the police car stopped just behind the truck. Jean-Pierre hadnâ€™t expected the local Polizei to respond so rapidly.
They needed to find coverâ€”
More gunfire erupted, and as if reading his thoughts, Suzanne turned the prisoner toward a weathered column. Jean-Pierre crumbled against the pillar, catching his breath.
The columns provided cover, but not enough. Soon the police would be upon them. They had to make a move. Only ten steps separated them from turning the street corner and sprinting into Helmutâ€™s watch store. From there, a car waited outside the back door.
Another hail of gunfire struck the plaster. Jean-Pierre mouthed a prayer under his breath.
â€œSuzanne, we have to get out of here!â€
She crouched into a trembling ball, all confidence gone. â€œTheyâ€™re surrounding us!â€ The terror in her uncertain timbre was clear. â€œBut what can we do? We canâ€™t let them see us run into the store.â€
â€œForget that. We have no choice!â€ Jean-Pierre raised his pistol and returned several volleys, firing at the two policemen perched behind a parked car.
â€œListen to me,â€ he said to Suzanne, taking his eyes momentarily off the police car. â€œYou have to go. You take this guy, and Iâ€™ll cover you. Once you turn the corner, itâ€™s just twenty more meters to Helmutâ€™s store.â€ His hands moved as he spoke, slamming a new clip of ammunition into his pistol.
â€œBut what ifâ€”â€
â€œIâ€™ll join you. Now go!â€
Jean-Pierre jumped from behind the protection of the column and rapidly fired several shots. One cop dared expose himself to return fireâ€”not at Jean-Pierre but at the pair running for the corner.
Jean-Pierre turned just in time to see Suzanneâ€™s body lurch. The clean hit ripped into her flesh between the shoulder blades. She staggered for a long second before dropping
with a thud. The gangly prisoner didnâ€™t even look back as he disappeared around the corner.
I canâ€™t lose him, Jean-Pierre thought, remembering again the importance of this mission.
Yet to chase after the prisoner meant heâ€™d have to leave his partner behind.
Suzanne . . .
He emptied his Mauser at the hidden policemen, ducking as he scrambled toward his partner. Sweeping up her bloody form, he managed to drag her around the corner to safety.
â€œGo,â€ Suzanne whispered.
â€œI canâ€™t leave you. Stay with meâ€”â€
Her eyelids fluttered. â€œYou need to go . . .â€ A long breath escaped, and her gaze fixed on a distant point beyond him.
Jean-Pierre dropped to his knees and ripped open Suzanneâ€™s bloodstained woolen jacket. Her soaked chest neither rose nor fell. He swore under his breath and brushed a lock of
black hair from her face.
Jean-Pierre cocked his head. Incessant gunfire filled the air. His colleagues were apparently keeping the German soldiers and local Polizei at bay, at least for the time being. He knew only a few valuable seconds remained to escape with
He planted a soft kiss on Suzanneâ€™s forehead. â€œUntil we see each other in heaven,â€ he whispered.
Jean-Pierre darted to a trash can, where the shaken prisoner had hunkered down, covering his head. The resistance fighter clutched the manâ€™s left arm and hustled him inside the watch store, pushing past two startled women. The rear door was propped open, and a black Opel four-door idled in the alley.
With a few quick steps, they were inside the vehicle.
Before the rear door was shut, the driver jerked the car into gear, and the Opel roared down the tight alley. The door slammed shut, and Jean-Pierre glanced back. No one followed.
The car merged onto a busier street, and only then did Jean-Pierre sink in his seat and close his eyes.
Soon theyâ€™d arrive at a safe house pitched on the Rhine River. And later, with the dark night sky as their protection, a skiff would sneak them into the warm arms of Mother
Switzerlandâ€”a skiff piloted by the mentor whoâ€™d recruited him. His nom de guerre: Pascal.
Jean-Pierreâ€™s mission would soon be complete, but at what cost? Another agentâ€”a good woman and a friendâ€”had been sacrificed.
He had followed orders for the greater good, to save the life of a nameless prisoner. He only hoped this mission was worth it.
Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, The Swiss Courier: A Novel,
Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Â© 2009. Used by permission
Click the bookcover or title for more info or to purchase a copy. Look for other FIRST Wildcard member posts and opinions also. Don’t forget to click the author’s names or photos to visit their websites. My review will be posted as soon as I finish the book.