Atthe height of WWII, a quartet of daring American adventurers pits theircunning against a cadre of Nazi S.S. agents seeking to acquire a powerfulweapon for the Fuhrer’s arsenal; today, as the Nazi specter begins to rear itshead once again, the descendants of those long-ago adventurers must unlock thesecrets of their forebears’ mission in order to save the world from Hitler’sresurgent Reich. Now, modern science and ancient Tibetan mythology surround adaring zoologist and a beautiful aviatrix who are all that stand between theNazis and world domination in New YorkTimes bestselling author William Dietrich’s Blood of the Reich, a knockout stand-alone novel perfect for fansof Ken Follett, Frederick Forsyth, and Thor Brad.
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Blood of the ReichA Novel
By William Dietrich
HarperCopyright © 2011 William Dietrich
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBerlin, Germany
March 21, 1938
First day of spring, and pregnant with the same expectancy that
gripped Kurt Raeder at his unexpected summons from
Reishsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The Prussian sky was cold, ragged
sunlight dappling the German capital with that glitter atop iron that
promised an end to winter. So might Himmler be the pagan sun to
part the clouds of Raeder's stalled career. So might Raeder win his
"We have read with interest your books on Tibet," the summons
stated. With that simple missive the explorer had been yanked out of
the ennui of his university teaching and the gloom of his wife's death,
the opportunity like the twin lightning bolts of the SS Rune.
As Raeder walked from the U-Bahn into the heart of Nazi power,
Berlin seemed to share his anticipation. The city was its habitual
gray, buds swollen but little green on the trees yet. The paving was
bright from a night's rain, however, and the capital seemed poised,
purposeful, like one of the new steel tanks that had waited on the
border for the Anschluss with Austria just nine days before. Now the
two nations were united in a single German Reich, and once more
public apprehension about a Nazi gamble had turned to excitement
bright as the red swastika banners, vivid as a wound. All the world
was waiting to see what Germany would do next. All Germany was
waiting to see what Hitler would do next. His New Order was
improbably succeeding, and on Wilhelm-Strasse, marble blocks and
columns were stacked to the sky where the Führer's imposing
Chancellery was rising. Speer had promised completion in less than a
year, and workers scrambled across the pile like frenzied ants. People
watched, with pride.
Raeder secretly liked the theatricality of his black SS uniform and
the medieval ritual of SS indoctrination. It meant brotherhood, the
satisfaction of being one of the chosen. Entry into the new German
knighthood in 1933, suggested by a politician friend, had been a way
to establish Aryan ancestry and win a measure of grudging deference
in a university system glacial in its advancements. But while appointments
had come quicker with the exodus of the Jews, Raeder's brief
fame had not solidified into promotion.
University intellectuals were snobbish toward the Nazis. At school,
Raeder had mostly avoided the costume, preferring to blend in with
high starched collar and restricting tie through years of brief celebrity,
dull instruction, and finally private tragedy.
But now the Reichsführer SS had somehow taken notice. Here
was the hinge of Raeder's life. So the young professor had put on the
Schutzstaffel uniform with its runic insignia, both proud and
self conscious. When his faculty colleague Gosling spied him from a café
and joked about it, the zoologist managed the good humor to shrug.
"Even scholars have to eat."
Life, the Nazis preached, was struggle.
Raeder knew he cut a fine SS figure. Brown hair a shade too dark
to be ideal, perhaps, but handsome and fit from his explorations:
erect, wiry, what a German youth might wish to be, the new man,
the Aryan prototype. Crack shot, alpinist, university scholar, hunter,
author, and scientist for the Third Reich. Lotte's death had not been
publicized, out of deference to his achievements. His self-doubt he
kept to himself.
Almost unconsciously, Berliners swerved around his uniform on
the crowded Wilhelm-Strasse, a caution he accepted as normal. The
SS was not to be loved, Himmler had preached. But Untersturmführer
Kurt Raeder, adventurer! His resolute gaze had been in magazines.
Women swept by him and peeked.
Pedestrians thinned as he walked past the sterile, massive headquarters
of Göring's new Air Ministry, the power of the Luftwaffe
implied by its modernist bulk. And then thinned still more as he turned
left onto Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse and arrived at Number 8, the most
notorious address in Nazi Germany. Here was the home of the Reich
Security Ministry, which included the SS and Gestapo. Next door
was Number 9, the Prinz-Albrecht-Palais Hotel, also subsumed by the
growing security bureaucracy. To Raeder's eye the home of the police
was a more inviting structure than the plain severity of Göring's
headquarters. With classical arched entry and Renaissance styling, the SS
buildings harkened back to the more refined nineteenth century. Only
the black-clad sentries who flanked the door hinted at its new purpose.
There were rumors of Gestapo cells in the basement. There were
always rumors, everywhere, of the very worst things. This was good,
Raeder believed. Menace promised security to those who followed the
rules. None could deny the Nazis had brought order out of chaos.
While the democracies were flailing, the totalitarian models
Germany, Italy, Spain, Japanwere on the rise.
This building was the fist of the future. Raeder's future.
There was a hush inside, like a church. A grand stairway with thick
balustrade, steps carpeted in red plush like a movie palace, led up a
flight to a vaulted entry hall. The only decorations were three
hanging swastika flags and busts of Hitler and Göring. Public depictions
of Himmler were rare; his power was his air of mystery. Bare wooden
benches as uncomfortable as pews lined one side of the waiting area,
glacial light filtering in from arched, frosted windows. At the far end
three steps led to another entry (like an altar, Raeder thought,
continuing the church analogy) with black-clad guards presiding instead
of black-robed priests. Himmler had modeled his elite on the Jesuits,
and SS zeal on the discipline of the Inquisition.
Raeder's credentials were checked and he was admitted to a more
private reception area, the offices beyond barricaded by a massive
counter of dark-stained oak, stout as a dam. Now a more thorough
check, this time by a blond-headed Nordic guard of the type the SS
put on its posters. The officer scrutinized his insignia skeptically.
"An Untersturmführer to see the Reichsführer?"
Raeder showed the letter that had summoned the SS lieutenant
from his residence in the respectable Wilmersdorf district, the apartment
haunted now since Lotte's death. "The Reichsführer expects all
ranks to serve."
The comment drew no reaction from a man with the expressiveness
of a robot. "Wait."
The explorer stood stiffly as the orderly spoke into a telephone
and then returned it to its cradle. The guard didn't bother to look at
Long minutes passed. Raeder could hear the faint clack of heels
on tile, the cricket-murmur of typewriter keys and code machines, the
rumble of wooden file drawers sliding out and slamming home. Each
muffled ring of distant phone was answered before it could jangle a
second time. All was whispered, as if the ministry building had been
selected to absorb sound. Was noise from the basement muted, too?
The colors were institutional green and cream, the lights a somber
"This way, Professor Raeder."
Another SS officer, a Sturmbanführer, thicker and pinker, briskly
led him into the maze of corridors beyond. They wound one way and
another, climbed a flight of stairs, and wound again. Raeder was
(perhaps deliberately) lost. The office doors they passed were shut, shapes
moving behind obscured glass. The few people in the hallways were
male, hurried, boots drumming, conversation a murmur. The walls
were blank. Floors gleamed. The calm efficiency, the monkish
concentration, the paper-and-glue smell of a library . . . it was admirable
Then more SS guards as strapping as Vikings snapped to attention,
a double door swung open, and they came to a high-ceilinged
anteroom paneled in beech. Sentries checked Raeder for weapons
and scrutinized his identification once again. No one smiled or spoke
more than the minimum. It was a wordless play, the anteroom dim,
windowless. He was in the middle of a vast hive.
A knock on a side door, an answering buzz, and he was ushered
Raeder expected another corridor, but instead found himself in
a modest painted office, with a lower ceiling than in the anteroom
outside. A single window looked out on a courtyard, the wall it faced
blank stone. No one from outside could look in. There was a large but
plain desk, left over from some Prussian ministry, and three leather
chairs in front of it. Behind sat the second most powerful man in
Himmler looked up from a manila file and gave Raeder an owlish
blink. With round spectacles, receding chin, and narrow shoulders,
the Reichsführer SS was nothing like his praetorians outside. In fact,
he resembled a bank clerk or schoolmaster. He had a thin mustache,
pale skin, and white, fastidious, womanly hands. His hair was shaved
close to the skull above his ears in the dull helmet shape of Prussian
A much fiercer portrait of the Führer looked down on them with
burning zeal: that shock of black hair, that punctuating mustache.
The office was otherwise absent of decoration. There were no
personal pictures or mementos, just a wall of books, many of them
old, leather-bound, and cracked. Raeder couldn't read the faded
titles. The Reichsführer's desk was as neat as that of an accountant,
stacks of files with colored tabs precisely squared and ranked. Either
this was not Himmler's regular office or the Reichsführer had no
need of the baronial opulence of a Hermann Göring. The abstention
Himmler closed the folder and turned it so Raeder could discern
his own name and picture.
The zoologist did so, sinking into a chair. Its legs had been trimmed
so that he almost squatted, looking up at Himmler. The Reichsführer
smiled thinly, as if to relax his guest, but the chilliness simply
reinforced the man's power. There was something oddly vacant about
the personality he projected, as if Raeder were meeting with a facade.
Then Himmler abruptly leaned forward in a disconcertingly
intense way, with a predatory glare like an insect, eyes obscured behind
the reflection of the glasses, purpose ignited as if with a match.
"Untersturmführer," the security minister began without preamble,
folding his hands on Raeder's folder, "do you believe in the
importance of blood?"
Excerpted from Blood of the Reich by William Dietrich Copyright © 2011 by William Dietrich. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
“Blood of the Reich showcases [Dietrich’s] best skills, marrying riveting historical set pieces to a modern, taut thriller. Evocative and deadly, bloody and harrowing, this book left me breathless and churning through the last pages until its jaw-dropping climax. Not to be missed.”
“Blood of the Reich is something new for William Dietrich. A foray into the modern world of the international thriller—loaded with secrets, conspiracies, action, adventure—but with all of the rich scope and history we’ve come to expect from a Dietrich book. Top-notch entertainment.”