Andrew Turpin goes Nazi Hunting
Though the Nuremberg Trials and the many hunts which ensued brought a considerable number of Nazi conspirators and war criminals to justice, the unfortunate truth is many have escaped and managed to live out their lives in relative peace and quiet, certainly more than they deserved. This is especially evidenced by the fact various organizations are still successfully catching former Nazis, even though at this stage the justice is more symbolic than anything else. Fairly soon anyone who might have been responsible for crimes during the war will have died, but I wager the concept of Nazi hunting will live on, even if under a different name. This goes double for the realm of fiction where authors have already based their writings around the topic for decades now, and The Last Nazi by Andrew Turpin is another one to add to the list.
The story begins in 2012 with the introduction of Joe Johnson, a former CIA operative, now a Nazi hunter working for himself. He takes on the case of a suspicious suicide from a reporter, which in turn leads them to a jewelry store in England run by two Holocaust survivors. As it turns out, the brothers were forced to hide Nazi gold in tunnels during their time as prisoners, and with the war now long behind them, they have returned to retrieve it. Their plan? Selling it back to a former Nazi at a high price… a former Nazi who once escaped Johnson’s grasp. What’s more, this all seems to be connected to the wartime family past of a U.S. presidential hopeful. A conspiracy is brewing, and soon many organizations are looking to stop Johnson in his tracks, by any means necessary.
A Historical Conspiracy
The first element which jumps to the eyes when reading this book is the amount of historical details and research which went into it. Turpin leaves no doubts in my mind he spent a considerable amount of time researching the topics of Nazi hunting and wartime politics. As a matter of fact, a good deal of the plot revolves around various historical lynchpins, and for those who aren’t really familiar with the Second World War, things can get a bit confusing at times. Thankfully, Turpin does take a few moments here and there to essentially give quick recaps of the plot, so even if you do get lost it won’t be for very long. Once you get a better grasp of the historical angle the story becomes simpler and easier to follow.
I found commendable the overall approach Turpin took to describing Nazis and the atrocities they committed. He does it in about as neutral a way as possible, never shoving any sort of commentary or opinion down our throats. He describes the cruelties they were inflicting in a very matter-of-fact way, leaving the decision of how to feel and judge them completely up to us.
As was mentioned above, there is a big overarching conspiracy theory in this book, and without spoiling anything about it, I will give it credit in saying it’s, for the most part, quite believably-written. There are a few elements about it here and there which feel a bit far-fetched or unlikely, but I feel they deserve a pass since they aren’t overly integral to the plot.
The Hunt for Gold
Taking a moment to step away from the historical angle of this book, there remains a very competent thriller story to discuss with a number of interesting characters who drive it forward. Joe Johnson himself is fairly likeable, and most importantly, fallible. He’s no James Bond or some invulnerable superhero who can never do wrong. We constantly witness his flaws and his uphill battle against adversity, and it’s precisely this human element which makes him feel so endearing to us. While it is true there are some cliched elements about his character, such as him being ex-CIA, they are far and few in-between. The two brothers who own the jewelry store and decide to sell the gold are also an interesting pair to study, with their motivations and actions seemingly conflicting with their morality. If I had any complaints to register about the characters, it’s the fact we get a lot of exposition through dialogue which feels unnatural seeing as how we have people stating to each other things which they already know. It feels a bit forced, but thankfully it dies out of the book about a quarter of the way through.
The plot itself is also pretty enthralling in its own right, constantly moving forward at a steady pace which gives us a bit of time to digest the words we read. There are never any lulls to speak of in the progress of the plot, and I believe this works wonders in hiding some of the afore-mentioned flaws found in the book. We are simply too invested in what the next twist might bring to pay attention to the negative elements, and before we know it we stand before the finale.
The Final Verdict
The Last Nazi by Andrew Turpin is, despite its few flaws, an excellent historical thriller with a captivating plot, interesting characters and a curious window into the realm of the Second World War. If these sorts of thrillers are up your alley, then I firmly believe you will be able to enjoy this book for all its worth and can only highly recommend it.
Andrew Turpin is a former journalist-turned-author from the U.K. who also studied at Loughborough University which netted him many additional years of experience as a corporate and financial communications adviser. He has reconciled his love for good thrillers with his unique interest in unsolved war crimes by writing some highly-acclaimed novels, including The Last Nazi, The Old Bridge and Bandit Country.