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James Lewis
The Quadrant Conspiracy
As Anglo-American leaders gather to plan the defeat of Nazi Germany, Hitler orders the death of President Franklin Roosevelt to derail the conference. Brandon Armitage, a Canadian veteran of the Great War, has joined Canada’s Volunteer Guard to oversee German prisoners; it’s a role he’s undertaken to seek revenge for the death of his son during a raid on the French Coast. When one of his prisoners escapes. Armitage pursues him to a remote island above Lake Huron, where FDR is on a pre-conference fishing trip. Suspecting the German is trying to assassinate the American leader, Armitage alerts security officials. When they refuse his help, insisting their security is tight, Armitage must act alone, even as he seeks to rescue his failing marriage. The Quadrant Conspiracy is based on an actual historical incident and is set against the backdrop of the Allied march to defeat the Third Reich. While there are elements of a thriller, the story also centers on the effect of two worldwide conflicts on a marriage.
Lewis (Novak's Mission) pairs meticulous research on World War II, global politics, and Canadian history with a deeply humane character study that evaluates the costs of war beyond the battlefield. He extrapolates some unusual events that happened around a wartime visit from U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and spins a story about a German assassination plot. The story spans the tenuous moments in 1942 and 1943 when things were just starting to turn in the Allies' favor against the fascist Axis powers. It follows the intersection of four characters: Brandon Armitage, a disabled Canadian veteran who becomes a guard at a prisoner-of-war camp; his wife Margie, who is estranged from Brandon; Jörg Schumacher, a clever POW who is drawn into sinister plans; and FDR himself, whose fragile health but sharp mind is emphasized as he negotiates with foreign leaders and dreams of a better world.

While the historical material fascinates, it’s the memorable characters that power the story. Brandon's own repressed trauma as a former prisoner-of-war hurts his marriage with Margie, who resents him for not keeping their sons from enlisting, while Margie's narrative of seeking independence and eventually coming to terms with Brandon is the emotional heart, reflecting the ways in which war shatters lives away from the field of battle. Schumacher is not a dedicated Nazi, but threats to his family rope him into the assassination plot.

The eventual convergence of the three men leads in some unusual directions, as Brandon shows mercy to Schumacher. While the pacing is slow at the beginning of the book, the time Lewis spends on his characters pays off when the pace picks up and the reader is fully invested. The result is a thrilling example of historical fiction that's grounded in fact but never forgets that it's the characters who ultimately drive history.

Takeaway: Fans of World War II thrillers will delight in Lewis’s research and characterization.

Great for fans of: William Martin’s December '41, Howard Blum’s Night of the Assassins.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-