Larsen (The Perfect Assassin) links the torpedoing of the USS Indianapolis shortly after the ship delivers an atomic bomb to the island of Tinian in the South Pacific to a Nazi plot in his second thriller, set in the waning days of WWII. Maj. Michael Thatcher, a tenacious British officer whose job is to hunt down Nazi spies, is intrigued when the words "Manhattan Project" come up in one of his interrogations. Meanwhile, in Germany, Col. Hans Gruber knows that a sleeper spy, Die Wespe, who's been working on the atomic bomb project in Los Alamos, must be smuggled out of the U.S. with his stolen plans so that those Nazis who survive the war can rearm and continue their goal of world domination. Charged with this mission is Capt. Alexander Braun, an American fighting in the German army. Braun is clever and ruthless, but once Thatcher catches his scent, he won't rest until Braun is captured or killed. An innovative, original plot marks Larsen as an author to watch. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Stealing Trinityby Ward Larsen
In the last days of WWII, the Third Reich makes a desperate grab to retrieve its most valuable asset, Die Wespe, a spy buried deep in the Manhattan Project. The man chosen for this mission is Alexander Braun---American born, Harvard educated, and a ruthless killer. British Intelligence learns of the Nazi plan. Unable to convince their American counterparts of the… See more details below
In the last days of WWII, the Third Reich makes a desperate grab to retrieve its most valuable asset, Die Wespe, a spy buried deep in the Manhattan Project. The man chosen for this mission is Alexander Braun---American born, Harvard educated, and a ruthless killer. British Intelligence learns of the Nazi plan. Unable to convince their American counterparts of the magnitude of the threat, they dispatch Major Michael Thatcher to track down Braun. The trail leads to Rhode Island, where Lydia Cole, a young heiress, has unwittingly taken Braun back into her life. Braun is forced to run, and there is one place where he must go--Los Alamos, home of the Manhattan Project. On July 16, 1945, the world's first atomic bomb is tested - code named Trinity. In the days that follow, four people - a tenacious British investigator, a determined young woman, a killer, and the spy who could compromise America's greatest scientific endeavor - will have a fateful rendezvous, all vying for control of the secret that will shape the world.
Larsen's second thriller (after The Perfect Assassin) is a well-written, well-researched, and compelling tale of the chase for nuclear secrets in the final days of World War II. Nazi sniper Alex Braun, a German raised in the States, is smuggled into America to locate a Third Reich spy buried in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. British intelligence major Michael Thatcher discovers Braun's presence but not his purpose or his whereabouts-he's staying with an old flame, the wealthy Lydia Cole. Braun, who wants to get the spy's secrets and sell them to the Soviets, is a killer, and his trek to both New Mexico and Guam is littered with the bodies of those who've crossed his path. Meanwhile, Thatcher and Lydia have joined the chase. An easy and gripping read, this is recommended for all popular fiction collections.
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By Ward Larsen
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2008 Ward Larsen
All rights reserved.
Colonel Hans Gruber stood facing the stone wall at the back of his office, drawing heavily on a cigarette, a thick French wrap that filled the air around him with fetid gray smoke. On another day, in another place, he might have wondered if the acrid swill would bother the officers about to join him. But deep in an unventilated Berlin bunker, in April 1945, it was pointless. The bombing was mostly at fault, the Americans by day and the British by night, stirring the dust, bouncing the rubble, and creating more of each. Always more. Then there were the constant fires. Ash swirled in the air, at times indistinguishable from the snow, and subject to the whims of a bitter wind that somehow redistributed the mess without ever driving it away.
Gruber remained motionless, his tall, cadaverous frame hunched in thought, as fixed as the stony gargoyles that had once held watch over the building above. He stared blankly at the wall, glad there was no window. The Berlin outside was no longer worth looking at, a place unrelated to that of his youth. Even two years ago there had been hope. From his old office, he had looked down Berkaerstrasse on sunny mornings to see vestiges of the old city. Mothers pushing prams, stores still stocked with vegetables and thick sausage. Now he sat in a hole in the ground, praying for rain to dampen the ash, quell the fires and, most importantly, to hide the city from the next squadron of bombardiers.
A knock on the door interrupted Gruber's miserable thoughts. He turned and stabbed the butt of his smoke into a worn ashtray on his desk.
A corporal ushered in two guests. In front, Gruber noted without surprise, was SS Major Rudolf Becker. He strode with purpose and was in full regalia — black overcoat, shining jack-boots, skull insignia, and a wheel hat tucked tightly under one arm. Behind him came General Freiderich Rode, the acting number two of the Abwehr, the intelligence network that answered to Germany's Armed Forces High Command. Rode's appearance and carriage were very different, a thick-necked jackal to Becker's strutting peacock. He was a working soldier, boots scuffed and trousers wrinkled, a square face carved from granite. His bulldog neck was shaved close, disappearing into the thick collar of his jacket, and the eyes were wide-set and squinting — eyes that might be looking anywhere.
"Gentlemen," Gruber said formally, "please have a seat. Corporal Klein, that will be all."
Both men sat, and the corporal struggled to shut the solid door — something had shifted in the bunker's earthen support structure and it hadn't closed normally in weeks. With privacy established, Gruber sat at his desk facing two men who looked very tired. The room fell silent as he reached into the bottom drawer and pulled out a half-empty bottle of vodka, then three tumblers.
"It's Polish. They cook it in spent radiators, I'm told."
Gruber's guests showed no amusement. They were no doubt wondering why he had called them here. If they hadn't been good friends, they probably wouldn't have come. Rank was becoming less relevant with each passing day, and an unexpected summons to the headquarters of the Sicherheitsdienst, or SD, was enough to make anyone nervous. It was the Nazi party's own intelligence service, run by some of the most desperate men in an increasingly desperate regime.
Gruber poured stout bracers and issued them around. No one bothered to toast anything — for three German officers a certain sign of lost hope — and three heads snapped back. Gruber set his glass gingerly on the desk and studied it before beginning.
"Have either of you made plans?" There was no need to be more specific.
Behind closed doors, Major Becker of the SS softened, his tone weary. "I have access to a boat, up north. But it will have to be soon. Ivan has crossed the Oder."
Rode said, "There is talk among the general staff of a convoy to the south. But I do not think big groups are good. Those who make it out will be alone, or in very small parties."
"I agree," said Gruber. He had his own escape, but wasn't going to share it, even with his most trusted peers. "How is our Führer holding together?" he asked, addressing Rode, who still attended the occasional staff meeting in the Führerbunker.
Rode shrugged. "The same."
Gruber knew, as did all who had seen Hitler in the last weeks, that their leader's mental health was deteriorating rapidly. He was despondent one minute, then bubbling with optimism the next as he ordered nonexistent divisions into battle against the advancing pincer. His field commanders were no help, making empty promises to avoid the Führer's wrath, each hoping to buy enough time to escape his own last-minute firing squad. Lies to feed the lunacy — and yet another multiplicand in the calculus of Germany's misery.
A rough, wet cough erupted as Gruber reached into his pocket. He extracted a silver cigarette case and plucked out another of the harsh French Gauloises. His doctor had advised him to stop, but Gruber decided it would be an improbable fate at this point to die at the hand of tobacco. The others sat in silence as he lit up, stagnant gray smoke curling up toward a ceiling stained black.
"Gentlemen, our immediate future is as clear as it is untenable. Within certain obvious constraints, it is up to us to plan for the future of the Reich." Gruber let that hang in the air for an appropriate amount of time. "Of course, the first priority is to establish ourselves in a safe place. This will require patience. The world will be in a state of confusion and recovery for many months, perhaps years, and this we must take advantage of."
"Our network in Italy remains strong," Rode suggested. "And Spain is possible."
"No, no. These might be good staging points for our departure, but Europe is out of the question for the near term. We will need a great deal of time to reorganize."
Becker added, "And a great deal of money."
"Yes, indeed. But here we are fortunate. Our Swiss friends are competent and extremely discreet in these matters. Considerable funds will be at our disposal. We will have the money, and we will take our time. But there is one particularly pressing matter."
Gruber stood and flicked his cigarette's spent ashes carelessly on the stone floor. "It concerns an agent of yours, General. Die Wespe."
Rode's eyes narrowed to mere slits. It was his signature stare, the mannerism that combined with his physical presence to wilt peers and underlings alike. Gruber, however, ignored it freely, in the same fashion that he ignored the flag-grade insignia on the man's collar. The structure of command was becoming increasingly fluid as a new order emerged.
"How do you know about Die Wespe?"
Gruber waved a languid hand in the air to dismiss the question as immaterial.
Becker asked, "Who is this Wespe?"
"He is a very special spy," Gruber said, "a fat little German scientist who works with the Americans." He shook his head derisively, still amazed that they could allow such a stupid breach. "He holds information that is vital to our future."
"Vital?" Rode scoffed. "I suspect it will be worthless." He turned to Becker. "The Americans have spent years and an incredible amount of money pursuing wild ideas. We explored the concept ourselves. Heisenberg, our top physicist, headed the effort. It came to nothing."
"We undertook a token project," Gruber agreed, "and it was a failure. However these academic types are a difficult breed. They consider themselves above the world, and some have a reputation for — conscience."
"Sabotage is what you mean," Rode countered.
"There were rumors. At any rate, our own work in the area has been feeble."
Becker asked, "What does it involve?"
Rode took a minute to explain the incredible details. He then added, "But it is only a whim on the chalkboards of certain scientists, a paper theory. Nothing has been proven."
The SS man, who knew his weapons, agreed, "I cannot imagine such a thing."
Gruber hedged, "Indeed, the concept has not yet been tested. But Wespe tells us this will come soon. Within months, if not weeks. Is this not true, Freiderich?"
"And if it should work?" Becker asked.
"There lies the significance. If it should work, my friend, those with the knowledge will control the future of our world."
Becker said, "And you think we should strive to acquire this knowledge?"
"We must have it!" Gruber paced with his hands behind his back, his angular frame leaning forward. "And it is still within our grasp."
"But are you not aware?" Rode warned, "Our agent in America, the only contact with Wespe, has been lost. He was uncovered, killed when the Americans tried to arrest him."
"Precisely," Gruber said, "which is why I have called you both here today. We must reestablish contact with Wespe, at any cost."
Rode blew a snort in exasperation, "Our networks are finished. Most of our agents have been captured or killed, and some have certainly talked under interrogation. Everything must be considered compromised."
"Agreed. Which is why we must start from the beginning." Gruber took a seat at his desk, coughing again, his lungs heaving to rid the spoiled subterranean air from his body. Recovering, he made every effort to sit erect and display strength, not the weariness that pulled straight from the marrow of his bones. Four thin file folders sat neatly stacked on the desk in front of him. Gruber split them, handing two to each of his compatriots. They were numbered for reference, simply one through four.
"We need someone fresh, someone unknown to your service, Freiderich. But, of course, there are requirements. This person must be absolutely fluent in English, and preferably has lived in America." Rode and Becker began to study the dossiers as Gruber continued. "These necessities limit our options, especially given that this person must be absolutely committed to our cause."
Gruber let that hang. He fell silent, allowing Rode and Becker a chance to take in the information. After a few minutes, they swapped files.
"There must be more information than this," Becker insisted. "Here there are only a few pages."
Gruber shrugged. "We are Germans, so of course volumes exist on each. I have taken the liberty of condensing the information."
Rode finished, and said, "You suggest that only one of these men be dispatched. If the matter is truly so urgent, why not enlist them all?"
"An intriguing thought, Freiderich. One which I entertained myself. But consider. Whoever we send must have enough information to contact Wespe." Gruber set his elbows on the desk and steepled his hands thoughtfully, as if in prayer. "Let me put forward a bit of wisdom from a friend of mine, a pilot in the Luftwaffe. One day, relating his flying experiences, he told me that he would prefer to fly an aircraft with one engine as opposed to two. He thought it safer. This seemed strange to me until he explained — an aircraft with two engines has twice the chance of a power-plant failure." He gestured toward the folders. "Sending them all would increase the probability of making contact with Wespe. But a single failure ruins everything."
The two men facing Gruber gave no argument to the logic.
"So the question becomes, which?"
Becker, the major, looked at Rode, perhaps deferring to rank, even though it held little substance here.
"Number two, without question," Rode said.
Becker nodded in agreement. "Number three is in the hospital, with injuries that might take time to heal. Four has been in Germany for a very long time. I suspect he might be too far removed from America. And number one, the Gestapo sergeant — he sounds like a killer, but perhaps more an animal."
"This one I know personally, and I would be inclined to agree," Gruber said. "But at least he would be true to our cause."
"Do you have reason to doubt number two?" Rode asked.
"No. His record is clear, although ... something about it bothers me."
"I did not think anyone escaped the Cauldron on foot," Becker said, referring to the siege of Stalingrad, where Paulus's entire 6th Army was lost.
"Yes. I double-checked that. He is, as far as I know, the only one. He walked into a field hospital nearly a week after the surrender — von Manstein's relief Group. It was over fifty miles from the city. And in the middle of winter."
Rode said, "He is highly intelligent, and has fought for the Fatherland time and again. His performance reports are adequate. So what is it that you don't like about him?"
Gruber hedged, "I can't say, exactly. He grew up in America, but his father brought him to our cause at the outset of the war. Yes, he was brilliant academically, having studied architecture at the American's elite university called Harvard. But given that, his military ratings have been something less. Adequate, as you say, but nothing more. He has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the war, yet only recently found the rank of captain."
Becker said, "But any man who could walk out of the Cauldron — he is a survivor. This we need more than anything."
A distant rumble announced the arrival of another wave of American B-17s, and Gruber heard the plaintive wail of the air-raid siren.
"Where is he now?" Rode asked.
"He is assigned as a sniper, attached to the 56th Regiment."
"If this mission is as critical as you say, we must make the right choice. Let's send for him. Then we can decide."
"Yes," Gruber nodded thoughtfully. "But perhaps I will go find him myself." He gave a shout of summons, and Corporal Klein shouldered his way in against the warped door.
"When the raid has ended I will require a staff car."
The corporal shrugged. "We have none of our own, Herr Oberst. The last was taken this morning by a group of Gestapo officers. I can get on the phone —"
"Find something, you idiot!" Gruber shoved the files across his desk. "And secure these back in the safe."
Corporal Klein took the folders and headed out.CHAPTER 2
The 56th Regimental Headquarters was easy enough to find, crammed into the rooms of a crumbling old school. From there, Gruber's difficulty began. No one seemed to know the man he sought. Captain Alexander Braun was recently attached to the unit, and here, organization was clearly beginning to deteriorate. The adjutant had lost all the regiment's paperwork in a fallback two weeks ago. The commander, an old-school Prussian with a shell-shocked gaze, was limited to muttered frustrations about his unit's lack of fuel and ammunition. The soldiers themselves were mostly silent, a few bantering halfheartedly about drink, cigarettes, and women — the pursuits of those who expect life to be brief, Gruber mused.
He searched for twenty minutes before being directed to a grizzled sergeant who sat cleaning his weapon at a schoolboy's desk in a corner. As Gruber approached, the man eyed the unfamiliar, well-fed headquarters officer. Gruber let his rank insignia suffice for introduction.
"I am searching for Captain Alexander Braun."
The sergeant shrugged, then spit on a rag and polished the shoulder stock of his disassembled weapon. Gruber was in no mood for interservice trifling. He moved closer and hovered, his holstered Lugar obvious in its message. There were Russians to the east and Americans to the west, but here, in the last crumbling corners of the Reich, lay some of the most dangerous men.
The sergeant, who had himself likely not seen a cleaning in weeks, put down the rag and set the butt of his weapon on the ground. "Braun. Yes. He is out on sniper duty."
"When will he be back?"
"I cannot say, Herr Oberst. He has been out for three days."
"Three days! How can a sniper team operate for such a length of time?"
"Captain Braun has set his own rules in his short time with us. He comes and goes as he pleases. And he always sends his spotter back. A lone wolf, you might say."
Gruber's eyes narrowed, considering this. "But is he effective?"
"As a sniper?" The sergeant cocked his head indifferently. "He claims many kills, but without a spotter to confirm them — who can say?"
"I must talk to his spotter. Is he here now?"
The sergeant smiled.
Excerpted from Stealing Trinity by Ward Larsen. Copyright © 2008 Ward Larsen. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
As a fighter pilot in the US Air Force, award-winning novelist Ward Larsen flew over twenty combat missions in Desert Storm. He has also been a federal law enforcement officer and an aircraft accident investigator. Presently captain for a major airline, he resides with his family in Florida. He is also the author of The Perfect Assassin and Stealing Trinity.
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