The Odessa File, by Frederick Forsyth

August 25, 2012 at 09:08 (Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poorly Rated Books, Thriller) (, , , )


In the vast morass of Nazi fiction and Second World War fiction, Forsythe’s name stands out as one likely to produce a reasonably well written book; or at least one fitting the reputation of a renowned author. He was not the first writer to decide that Nazis made the best and most original villains in a thriller, and unfortunately he will not be the last. The story found in The Odessa File is not particularly innovative, nor does it offer many surprises in the telling. Forsyth goes to great pains to maintain the illusion that his book is at least as much fact as it is fiction, and it falls upon the enterprising reader either to swallow this claim whole, or untangle it later. Needless to say, authors who are — if not dishonest then a little cagey with the truth — can swiftly grow tiresome.

“‘You’re not Jewish, Miller. You’re Aryan. You’re one of us. What did we ever do to you, for God’s sake, what did we ever do to you?'”

-The Odessa File

There are enormous sections of this book where Frederick Forsyth seems to forget that he is no longer a journalist, and where he slips into a frighteningly dull passive voice, and narrates what might otherwise have been some rather exciting scenes with all the vividness and thrill of a speaking clock. Far too often the pendulum is prone to going the other way, with authors so excited about writing that they feel the need to floridly elaborate on every zephyr, every tilt of her head or bob of his Adam’s apple — but The Odessa File commits the peculiar and frankly rather rare sin of over-expositing and over-explaining to a bizarre degree.

It is surely due to this overwrought need to clarify and explain that the most thrilling part of the book, the denouement, reads with an uninspired sense of familiarity and inevitability. There is altogether too much driving and travelling, too straightforward a path walked by the faceless and forgettable protagonist, and a depressing dearth of any sort of tension whatsoever.


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