Alive and hiding in South America, the fiendish Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele gathers a group of former colleagues for a horrifying projectthe creation of the Fourth Reich. Barry Kohler, a young investigative journalist, gets wind of the project and informs famed Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman, but before he can relay the evidence, Kohler is killed.
Thus Ira Levin opens one of the strangest and most masterful novels of his career. Why has Mengele marked a number of harmless aging men for murder? What is the hidden link that binds them? What interest can they possibly hold for their killers: six former SS men dispatched from South America by the most wanted Nazi still alive, the notorious “Angel of Death“? One man alone must answer these questions and stop the killingsLieberman, himself aging and thought by some to be losing his grip on reality.
At the heart of The Boys from Brazil lies a frightening contemporary nightmare, chilling and all too possible.
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About the Author
Wives, This Perfect Day, Sliver, and A Kiss Before Dying (for which he won the Edgar Award). Levin was also the recipient of three Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Awards. His website is www.iralevin.org.
Read an Excerpt
The Boys from Brazil
By Ira Levin
PEGASUS BOOKSCopyright © 2004 Ira Levin
All rights reserved.
EARLY ONE EVENING
in September of 1974 a small twin-engine plane, silver and black, sailed down onto a secondary runway at São Paulo's Congonhas Airport, and slowing, turned aside and taxied to a hangar where a limousine stood waiting. Three men, one in white, transferred from the plane to the limousine, which drove from Congonhas toward the white skyscrapers of central São Paulo. Some twenty minutes later, on the Avenida Ipiranga, the limousine stopped in front of Sakai, a temple-like Japanese restaurant.
The three men came side by side into Sakai's large red-lacquered foyer. Two of them, in dark suits, were bulky and aggressive-looking, one blond and the other black-haired. The third man, striding between them, was slimmer and older, in white from hat to shoes except for a lemon-yellow necktie. He swung a fat tan briefcase in a white-gloved hand and whistled a melody, looking about with apparent pleasure.
A kimonoed checkroom girl dipped and smiled prettily, and given the hat of the man in white, tried for his briefcase. He moved from her reach, however, and addressed himself to a lean young Japanese coming at him in a smile and a tuxedo. "My name is Aspiazu," he announced in Portuguese harshened by a slight German accent. "A private room is reserved for me." He looked to be in his early sixties and had cropped gray hair, vivid and cheery brown eyes, and a neat gray hairline mustache.
"Ah, Senhor Aspiazu!" the Japanese exclaimed in his own version of Portuguese. "Everything's ready for your party! Will you come this way, please? Just up these stairs. I'm sure you'll be happy when you see the arrangements."
"I'm happy now," the man in white said, smiling. "It's a pleasure to be in the city."
"You live in the country?"
The man in white, following the blond man up the stairs, nodded and sighed. "Yes," he said drily, "I live in the country." The black-haired man went after him, and the Japanese went last. "The first door on the right," he called ahead. "Will you remove your shoes before you go in, please?"
The blond man ducked to peer through an octagonal wall-opening, then braced a hand against a doorpost, raised his foot behind him, and pulled the shoe from it. The man in white put forward a white-shod foot on the hallway's carpet, and the black-haired man crouched down and unfastened a gold buckle at the side of it. The blond man, having set both his shoes aside, opened an intricately carved door and went into a pale-green room beyond. The Japanese toed himself nimbly out of pumps. "Our best room, Senhor Aspiazu," he said. "Very nice."
"I'm sure it is." The man in white pressed white-gloved fingertips against a doorpost as he watched the removal of his second shoe.
"And our Imperial Dinner for seven, with beer, not saki, and brandy and cigars after."
The blond man came to the doorway. Small white scars darned his face; one of his ears had no lobe. He nodded and stepped back. The man in white, shorter now by more than normal heel-height, went into the room. The Japanese followed him.
The room was cool and sweet-smelling, a placid oblong silk-walled in the hazy pale green of its tatami floormats. At its center, bamboo backrests with tan-and-white-patterned cushions faced three sides of a low black oblong table set with white plates and cups; three settings and backrests at each of the table's long sides and one at its right end. A shallow foot-well smaller than the table lay beneath it. At the room's right end another low black table stood against the wall, two electric burners set into its surface. The wall opposite was shoji screens of black-framed white paper. "Plenty of room for seven," the Japanese said, gesturing toward the central table. "And our best girls will be serving you. Prettiest too." He smiled and raised his eyebrows.
The man in white, pointing at the shoji screens, asked, "What's behind there?"
"Another private room, senhor."
"Is it being used tonight?"
"It hasn't been reserved, but a party might want it."
"I reserve it." The man in white gestured to the blond man to open the screens.
The Japanese looked at the blond man and at the man in white again. "It's a room for six," he said uncertainly. "Sometimes eight."
"Of course." The man in white strolled away toward the end of the room. "I'll pay for eight more dinners." He bent to study the burners in the table. His fat briefcase moved against his trouser leg.
The blond man was sliding the screens apart; the Japanese hurried to help him, or perhaps to prevent him from damaging the screens. The room beyond proved to be a mirror-image of the first room, except that its ceiling lighting panel was dark and the table beneath it was set for six, two at each side and one at each end. The man in white had turned to look; the Japanese smiled across the room at him uncomfortably. "I'll only charge you if someone asks for it," he said, "and then only the difference between what we charge downstairs and what we charge up here."
The man in white, looking surprised, said, "How nice! Thank you."
"Excuse me, please," the black-haired man said to the Japanese. He stood just within the room, his dark suit rumpled, his round swarthy face sheened with sweat. "Is there any way of closing this?" He pointed back toward the octagonal opening in the wall. His Portuguese was Brazil-accented.
"It's for the girls," the Japanese explained hopefully. "To see if you're ready for your next course."
"That's all right," the man in white told the black-haired man. "You'll be outside."
The black-haired man said, "I thought maybe he could ..." and he shrugged apologetically.
"Everything is satisfactory," the man in white said to the Japanese. "My guests will arrive at eight o'clock and—"
"I'll show them up."
"No need; one of my men will be waiting below. And after we eat we'll have a conference here."
"You can stay till three if you like."
"No need for that either, I hope! An hour should be sufficient. And now would you bring me please a glass of Dubonnet, red, with ice and a twist of lemon peel."
"Yes, senhor." The Japanese bowed.
"And is it possible to have more light? I plan to read while I wait."
"I'm sorry, senhor, this is all there is."
"I'll manage. Thank you."
"Thank you, Senhor Aspiazu." The Japanese bowed again, bowed less deeply to the blond man, bowed hardly at all to the black-haired man, and went quickly from the room.
The black-haired man closed the door, and facing it, raised his arms high, curved his fingers, and set the tips of them on top of the doorframe as if to play a key board. He moved his hands slowly apart.
The man in white went and stood with his back to the wall-opening while the blond man went to the backrest at the end of the table and crouched beside it. He pressed its tan-and-white cushions and lifted them from the bamboo frame and put them aside. He inspected the frame, turned it over to look at its bottom, and put it aside with the cushions. He felt the tatami matting all around the end of the table; with widespread hands he explored the plaited grass, gently pressing.
Getting down on his knees, he thrust his blond head in under the table and looked into the foot-well. He bent lower, turned his head, and looked up with one blue eye at the table's underside, scanning it slowly from end to end.
He backed from the table, took the bamboo frame, restored its two cushions, and placed the backrest at an accessible angle. Rising, he stood attentively behind it.
The man in white came, unbuttoning his jacket. He set his briefcase on the floor and turned and lowered himself carefully, finding the backrest's arms. He folded his legs in under the table, his feet toward the foot-well.
The blond man, bending, pushed at the backrest and squared it to the table.
"Danke," the man in white said.
"Bitte," the blond man said, and went and stood with his back against the wall-opening.
The man in white peeled at a glove, looking approvingly at the table before him. The black-haired man, arms high, side-stepped slowly across the opening between the two rooms, fingering along the top of a projecting black lintel.
A soft tapping sounded; the blond man moved to the door and the black-haired man turned, lowering his arms. The blond man listened, and opened the door to a pink-kimonoed waitress who came in with her head bowed, holding a tinkling glass and its tray. Her white-mittened feet whispered over the tatami.
"Ah!" the man in white exclaimed happily, folding his gloves. His enthusiastic expression faltered as the waitress, a flat-faced woman, crouched beside him and moved the napkin and chopsticks from his plate. "And what's your name, dear?" he asked with strained jollity.
"Tsuruko, senhor." The waitress put a paper coaster down.
"Tsuruko!" With wide eyes and pursed lips the man looked to the blond man and the black-haired man, as if marveling with them at an impressive revelation.
The waitress, having put the drink down, rose and backed away.
"Until my guests come, Tsuruko, I don't want to be disturbed."
"Yes, senhor." She turned and hurried close-kneed from the room.
The blond man closed the door and stepped back to his place before the wall-opening. The black-haired man turned and raised his hands to the lintel-top.
"Tsu, ru, ko," the man in white said, drawing his briefcase close to his side. In German he said, "If she's a pretty one what do the not-so-pretty ones look like?"
The blond man grunted a laugh.
The man in white finger-sprang the lockflap of his briefcase and opened it wide enough so that it stayed open. He tucked his folded gloves into an end of it, and leafing through the edges of papers and manila envelopes, drew from among them a thin magazine. He set it down—Lancet, the British medical journal—on the table beside his plate. Scanning its cover, he took from his breast pocket a frayed and faded petit-point eyeglass case, from which he drew a pair of black-framed glasses. Opening them, he put them on, pocketed the case and side-fingered his thin bristly mustache. His hands were small, pink, clean, young-looking. From inside his jacket he brought a gold cigarette case on which a lengthy handwritten inscription was engraved.
The blond man stood before the wall-opening. The black-haired man examined the walls, and the floor, and the serving table, and the backrests. He moved one of the middle table settings aside, spread his handkerchief in its place, and stepping up on it, opened with a screwdriver the chrome-bordered lighting panel.
The man in white read Lancet, sipping now and then at his Dubonnet, smoking a cigarette. He hissed air intently through a gap in his upper teeth. Occasionally he seemed surprised by what he read. Once he exclaimed in English, "Absolutely wrong, sir!"
The guests arrived within a period of four minutes, the first checking his hat but not his attaché case at three minutes of eight, the last at one minute after. When each made his way through waiting groups and couples to the tuxedoed Japanese, he was graciously directed to the blond man at the foot of the stairs; words were exchanged and the guest was shown upward, to the black-haired man pointing at the row of shoes beside the open door.
Six well-dressed businessmen in their middle fifties, fair-skinned, Nordic; sock-footed, they nodded politely to one another and bent to present themselves in Portuguese and Spanish to the man in white. "Ignacio Carreras, Doctor. An honor to meet you."
"Hello! How are you? I can't get up, I'm trapped here. This is José de Lima from Rio. Ignacio Carreras from Buenos Aires."
"Doctor? I'm Jorge Ramos."
"My friend! Your brother was like this right hand to me. Forgive me for sitting; I'm trapped. Ignacio Carreras from Buenos Aires, José de Lima from Rio. Jorge Ramos from right here in Paulo."
Two of the guests were old friends, happy to see each other. "In Santiago! Where have you been?" "In Rio!" Another introduced himself with a heel-click that failed: "Antônio Paz, Pôrto Alegre."
They lowered themselves in at the sides of the table, joking about their awkwardness, groaning; settled themselves with portfolios and attaché cases close beside; shook napkins open, named their drinks to a pretty young waitress gracefully crouching. Flat-faced Tsuruko set a steaming rolled-up washcloth before each man; the man in white and his guests scrubbed appreciatively at their hands, wiped at their mouths.
Wiping away, apparently, Portuguese and Spanish. German began to emerge; German names were exchanged.
"Ah, I know you. You served under Stangl, right? At Treblinka?"
"Did you say 'Farnbach'? My wife is a Farnbach, from Langen near Frankfurt."
The drinks were served, and small plates of appetizers—baby shrimp and balls of browned meat. The man in white demonstrated the use of chopsticks. The men who were adept gave guidance to those who weren't.
"A fork, for God's sake!"
"No, no!" the man in white laughed to the pretty young waitress. "We'll make him learn! He has to learn!"
Her name was Mori. The girl in the plain kimono, bringing plates and covered bowls to Tsuruko at the serving table, blushed and said, "Yoshiko, senhor."
The men ate and drank. They talked about an earthquake in Peru, and the new American president, Ford.
Bowls of clear soup were served, and more plates of food, fried and raw; tea was poured.
The men talked about the oil situation and its probable lessening of the West's sympathy for Israel.
More food was served—strips of cooked meat, chunks of lobster—and Japanese beer.
The men talked about Japanese women. Kleist-Carreras, a thin man with a glass eye that moved badly, told a wonderfully funny story about a friend's misadventure in a Tokyo brothel.
The tuxedoed Japanese came in and asked how everything was. "First rate!" the man in white assured him. "Excellent!" The other men agreed, in Portuguese-Spanish-German.
Melon was served. More tea.
The men talked about fishing, and different ways of cooking fish.
The man in white asked Mori to marry him; she smiled and pleaded a husband and two children.
The men climbed up from creaking backrests, stretched their arms and stood on tiptoe, patted their stomachs. A few, the man in white among them, went out into the hallway to find the men's room. The others talked about the man in white: how charming he was, and how lively and youthful for—was it sixty-three? Sixty-four?
The first group came back; the others went.
The table was clean black, set with brandy snifters, ashtrays, and a box of glass-tubed cigars. Mori went around crouching with a bottle, feeding each snifter a bottomful of dark amber. Tsuruko and Yoshiko whispered at the serving table, disagreeing about the clearing up. "Out, girls," the man in white said, going to his place. "We wish to speak in private."
Tsuruko shooed Yoshiko before her; apologized passing the man: "We'll clear up later." Mori gave the last snifter its brandy, set the bottle on the table's unoccupied end, and scurried toward the door, standing aside with her head bowed as the rest of the men came in.
The man in white lowered himself into his backrest. Farnbach-Paz helped him position it.
The black-haired man looked in at the door, counted the men, and drew the door closed.
The men lowered themselves into their places, gravely this time, not joking. The cigar box was passed.
The wall-opening was blocked on the other side by dark-gray suiting.
The man in white took a cigarette from his gold case, closed it, looked at it, and offered it to Farnbach on his right, who shook his bald-shaven head; but realizing he was being invited to read, not smoke, he took the case and held it out to focus on it. His blue eyes widened in recognition. "Ohhh!" He sucked air in through thick puckered lips as he read. Smiling excitedly at the man in white, he said, "How marvelous! Even better than a medal. May I?" He gestured with the case toward Kleist beside him.
Excerpted from The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin. Copyright © 2004 Ira Levin. Excerpted by permission of PEGASUS BOOKS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A good page turning thriller that reflects the era in which it was written, when the War ended only three decades earlier and some prominent ex-Nazis were still around to be be hunted and caught. The science of Mengele's plan is very implausible in its far-reaching implications, but the tension overcame this for me. I saw the film some years ago - Gregory Peck was ridiculously miscast, but managed to make a reasonable job of the role of Mengele.
Darren picked this one off his bookshelves for me; and he picked pretty well. I asked for something light and rather thought that it was going to get all too heavy when I got tangled up with Nazis hiding out in South America and planning the deaths of ninety four civil servants for no apparent reason. It's a really good read though and I'd recommend it myself now. Also, without giving the plot away, it's interesting to read it now as some of the things that are speculated about in the book have actually happened or become a lot more real in the thirtyish years since it was written.
That's it?I always expected so much more from this book. 'Thrilling'? not really. 'Vaguely interesting' would be a more appropriate description.
I have read the book before and seen the movie, but wanted to read it again. The story did not disappoint. Scary premise and good ending. I really enjoyed it. Lizzy
Fantastic, highly recommended
This story holds a special place of 'awe' in my memory. I saw the movie when I was a kid, and its' scientific mystery blended with action and history burned into my memory. Ira Levin writes a short, tightly focused drama. His writing is spare and crisp, and he successfully builds the drama surrounding a 1970's plot of surviving Nazis using science to rebuild an Aryan dream by bringing to life a Fourth Reich.
I start reading about an organized crime or political plot of mass murder. I am given enough information to know how the plot takes place but not why. I am allowed to visit some of the deeds that have unique and creative twists. The hero gets involved and the true purpose of the crimes begins to unfold. Our hero confronts the villain, almost gets killed, but is saved by the dogs. The scheme seems to have failed but one detail of the plan develops, destine to be the next story or your future.