Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although Elliott Roosevelt, son of Franklin and Eleanor, has passed away, his Eleanor Roosevelt mysteries continue posthumouslythanks, according to the publisher, to a legacy of several unpublished manuscripts. The newest release (after Murder in the Executive Mansion, 1995) features Eleanor in a secret mission during the early part of WWII. It's 1941, before Pearl Harbor. France has been occupied by the Nazis and President Roosevelt arranges for his wife to represent him at a clandestine conference involving several internationally known figures, including some high-ranking German officers, who are plotting to kill Hitler and end the war. Accompanying Eleanor to the Chteau Montrond in the French countryside are the intense Victoria Klein, a resistance fighter traveling as her maid, and Kevin O'Neil, an Irish mercenary. Their hostess, Vivienne Duval, introduces them to General Rommel and Colonel Artur Brandt, a Hitler aide, among others, but the conference is barely underway when Brandt is found murdered. With almost everyone a suspect, Eleanor is doubly challenged when a second body is discovered. The solution is almost secondary to the secret meeting itself. A surprise visit by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas provides an interesting twist to the quickly moving plot. Only the occasionally stilted conversation wrinkles the surface of this satisfying package. (June)
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt solves another perplexing mystery, this time while conducting a delicate diplomatic mission for her husband. Sent by F.D.R. to a luxurious chateau in Vichy France in order to attend a clandestine meeting between Free French leaders and German military officials dedicated to toppling Hitler's regime, Mrs. Roosevelt becomes ensnared in a dangerous game of international intrigue. When a high-ranking SS officer is murdered in the chateau, his death must be shrouded in secrecy and concealed from all the participants in the conference. Unaccustomed to thwarting the authorities, Mrs. Roosevelt agrees to participate in the cover-up, undertaking her own investigation and placing her own well-being in jeopardy. An entertaining historical mystery featuring a unique and incomparable heroine.
The flow of Roosevelt's posthumous novels (Murder in the Executive Mansion, 1995, etc.) continues unabated with this over- the-top excursion into surreal-absurdist plotting. It's June 1941, and Hitler is about to invade Russia, to the dismay of some of his highest officers. In the White House and elsewhere, a plan is being hatched, in deepest secrecy, to bring together for four days S.S. Colonel Artur Brandt; General Rousseau (of Vichy France); Eleanor Rooseveltas proof of US good faith; Churchill's son Randolphas the same for Britain; Kevin O'Neil, an Irish mercenary guarding Mrs. Roosevelt; Vicki Neustadt, Jewish and a member of the French Resistance; and General Erwin Rommel. They're all to gather at the chateau of Vivienne Duval in Vichy FranceMrs. Roosevelt and her group arriving by plane, submarine, and fishing boat. A protocol is to be drawn up formulating the boundaries and peace conditions that'll be activated once Hitler is either persuaded to agreeor assassinated. With everyone in place (Sarah Churchill substituting for her brother), there's not a dull moment, with walk-ons by Gertrude Stein and Josephine Baker; the murder of Brandt; the rape of Vicki and, as time is running out, the actual invasion of Russia rendering the whole mess null and void.
With its endless rehashing of anti-Semitic horrors, unreal subplots, cardboard characters, and even intimations of romance for Eleanor, there's much more irritation than satisfaction here.