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OPERATION NAPOLEON


By by Arnaldur IndriŠason
Translated by Victoria Cribb

Minotaur Books, First U.S. Edition: October 2011 ($24.99)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-65910-3
Format: hardcover

Picador, reprint edition, May 2012 ($15.00) ISBN-13: 978-1250003188
Format: paperback

Kindle eBook: $9.99

Reviewed by Larry Jung
(May 2012)

Iceland was not conquered by the German's during World War II. Rather the island, the size of the state of Kentucky with a population around 320,000 people, was occupied first by the British, then the Americans. As late as 1999, the Americans maintained a military airbase on Iceland. And as late as 1999, the citizens of Iceland continue to resent being an occupied country. Nice Icelandic women have nothing to do with the Americans on the U.S. airbase. "The stories about Icelandic women and GIs were ugly: 'Yankee whores' they called them. The public had always taken a harsh view of Icelandic women who got involved with the American servicemen, a throwback to the Second World War when the girls had welcomed the first foreign soldiers to arrive on these shores..." (page 88) Then there was the national humiliation of Iceland being so dependent on the United States to keep the small island's economy going. This was used as leverage whenever the Americans wanted their own way against the objections of Iceland's government.

January 1999. The U.S. launched a super-secret mission to find and recover the downed wreckage of a German World War II transport plane and it's passengers that crashed on the Vatnajökull glacier during the end of the war. The Americans have been looking for this downed plane for decades, but with no success until the age of modern satellite spy technology. Vatnajökull glacier is the largest in Europe and the winter in Iceland extremely harsh. With a ruthless and experienced black ops commander and a Delta team, this time the recovery mission has every chance of succeeding. As a cover, the U.S. officially is calling it a winter training mission. But the cover is blown when members of the Reykjavik Air Ground Rescue Team are in the same area and two of the team observe the secret recovery mission. One of the two from the Reykjavik Air Ground Rescue Team calls his sister Kristin. When he goes missing and the Americans physically keep her brother's team from searching for him, she knows something is terribly wrong. But she doesn't know that her life is in danger until two professional assassins try to kill her, but kill instead someone visiting her. On the run from the failed assassins and the police, who suspect her of shooting her unlucky visitor, she appeals for help to an American who lives near Reykjavik. The two stay a step ahead while trying to uncover why happened to Kristin's brother and why Americans are killing her countrymen.

I can only recommend OPERATION NAPOLEON with some reservations. The first is not to expect a political thriller or spy novel. It does not have the edge I was expecting from the dust jacket illustration and the subject matter. OPERATION NAPOLEION is more akin to a romantic suspense novel than a thriller like Jack Higgin's THUNDER POINT. The second reservation is that the plot is weak: the suspense and action not have the appropriate pay-off at the end. It is as if the author couldn't make up his mind what he wanted to accomplish. The third reservation is that the explanation for OPERATION NAPOLEON has been already explored in-depth in history and in fiction. It doesn't work as a surprise revelation. Arnaldur IndriŠason's lucid and flowing narrative style make for an easy read, and the anti-American tone will be an eye-opener for some of us in the U.S.

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