A German prisoner of war camp may be an unusual setting for a suspense novel. But John Katzenbach's latest story is more than just a war epic, it's a mesmerizing tale of honor, betrayal and unwavering courage.
Hart's War is Tommy Hart's story. The young B-25 navigator is full of guilt because he is the only surviving crew member when his plane is shot down. Imprisoned since 1942, Tommy's days at Stalag Luft Thirteen in Bavaria are spent studying legal books so after the war he can resume his interrupted studies at Harvard Law.
There is a sameness to Tommy's days. Other than friendships with a Canadian aviator and a famed British barrister, Tommy is very much a loner in camp, not involved in any of the constant escape attempts.
All of this changes when Lieutenant Lincoln Scott, an African American Tuskegee airman, arrives and immediately becomes the target of bitter racial animosity. When an officer who makes no secret of his prejudice and hatred of Lincoln Scott is brutally killed, all evidence points toward Scott, and he is put on trial for murder. Former law student Tommy Hart is assigned to defend him but the outcome of the trial seems to be a foregone conclusion.
John Katzenbach has written a commanding story full of twists and turns that leave the reader breathless. Part murder mystery, part chilling courtroom drama, part character study, Hart's War asks some very tough questions – who is the enemy, what price honor?
Katzenbach is one of those rare writers (like Nelson DeMille) who seem to start fresh with every novel. Even a plethora of complex characters and tough moral issues doesn't bog the book down. Hart's War begins slowly, builds up steam and erupts with a chilling, spectacular conclusion.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give John Katzenbach isn't that I stayed up until 2:30 am to finish Hart's War. It's that after finishing the book, I was so wound up in the story, it took me another hour to fall asleep.
Mark your calendar or put a post-it note on your refrigerator for this April release. Hart's War might very well be the best book you will read in 1999.