Don’t let the rather misleading title of Steven Burgauer’s new World War II novel fool you. Yes, there’s a ring of Nazi spies plotting to blow up a boat building factory in New Orleans. But the scope of the book reaches far beyond Louisiana and involves many more characters and situations than the small band of unlucky German agents.
The various settings indeed center on New Orleans where Andrew Jackson Higgins, an actual historical figure who in reality did what is described in the novel, is building landing craft for the allies, especially boats that can travel in shallow water, land safely on shores and beaches, and return to the water by a simple change to the propellers. But we also spend much time in New Orleans bordellos and meet mixed-blood prostitutes, some keenly interested in Haitian voodoo with helpful connections for the U.S. government. These connections include Sicilian mob families who provide helpful intelligence on the German and Italian defenses of Sicily where an allied invasion is planned using the Higgins boats.
But we also spend considerable time with Navajo code-talkers before we spend even more time in bloody South Pacific island hopping by U.S. forces. We go to London and visit British intelligence where one Commander Ian Fleming makes several appearances. Burgauer throws in scenes in Cuba, an amphibious invasion by a U.S. squad in Tunisia, as well as a number of U.S. Locations described in many a soldier’s backstory.
In short, a lot of moving parts keep this story going with so much rich detail providing every page with verisimilitude, notably in the settings and multi-cultural panorama of the mixed-blood women, soldiers and officers, Mafia bosses and henchmen, and the Navajo code-talkers. Considerable research is demonstrated from street slang to military technology which, admittedly, often slows the flow in order to get in historical descriptions from World War I battles to engineering specs for Higgin’s boats. Sometimes, these bits are a tad repetitious, as when Burgauer makes sure all readers know what the acronym, SNAFU, stands for.
While the title isn’t the best choice for what this book includes and some passages can easily be skimmed, Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou is for World War II buffs, those who like historical fiction in general, fans of New Orleans legends and lore, and readers who like espionage yarns spun out with an epic sweep. In other words, it’s a book for a wide variety of readers.
This review was first published by BookPleasures.com on Nov. 21, 2016 at:
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