Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Black Cross by Greg Iles

This evening I finished re-reading "Black Cross." In the three years since I last read it I forgot how amazing it is. Historical fiction is my genre of choice and I have read many books about World War II. This novel surpasses them all.

During the war, Germany developed two poison gases, Sarin and Soman, which remain the most lethal gases on the planet to this day. By the end of the war, Hitler knew the Allied troops were closing in but neither Soman or Sarin were used. Why wouldn't a confirmed madman use these gases when backed into a corner, and with a certainty of losing the war otherwise? "Black Cross" seeks to answer this question.

At the start of the novel, Winston Churchill and others under his command had just learned of Germany's possession of Sarin and Soman. However, the Allies had no defense against those gases, and no chemical weapons of their own that match the lethality of Sarin or Soman.

The two main characters, Jonas Stern and Mark McDonell could not have been more different. Jonas was a German Jew who escaped Nazi Germany and fought against the British in Palestine. Mark McDonell was a chemist and medical doctor from Georgia, experimenting with lethal gases in Oxford, England. These two men were brought together on a mission to tip the scales in the Allies' favor.

Even when reading it for the second time, I could not put this book down! The descriptions of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, the willingness of many characters to risk their lives for the sake of a cause greater than themselves, and the well-developed characters made it one of the best books I have ever read. Almost six hundred pages kept my attention until the edge-of-my-seat ending.

Here is the first chapter from

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