by Katzenbach, John
Stalag 17 meets the best of John Grisham in this tremendously exciting and moving new thriller, about a murder trial inside a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. John Katzenbach has taken elements of his own father's history in such a camp, added a racial twist (the defendant is a black pilot, a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen), and created a memorable adventure story that soars with hope and cries out to be filmed.
The first thing that former law student Tommy Hart does after his B-25 is shot down and he--the only survivor--is captured, is to fill out a form for the International Red Cross, telling his family he's alive and requesting, under "Special Items Needed," a copy of Edmund's Principles of Common Law. Amazingly, the book is waiting when he arrives at Stalag Luft Thirteen in the Bavarian woods. Hart soon puts it to good use, defending (with the help of two other prisoners, a former London barrister and a Canadian police detective) the prickly, proud Lieutenant Lincoln Scott when he is charged with killing a racist and corrupt fellow prisoner. The Nazis, especially a resident SS observer, have their own reasons for wanting the trial to be seen as a fair one, and it takes place against the backdrop of a planned mass escape.
Katzenbach deftly balances a dozen major characters with credible scenes of legal and extra-legal action. His previous thrillers, available in paperback, include Day of Reckoning, In the Heat of the Summer, Just Cause, The Shadow Man, State of Mind, and The Traveler. --Dick Adler
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