I picked up The Spy by Andrew Gross for two reasons. One, because my favourite shopkeeper recommended it to me and two, I’ve enjoyed reading the books that Andrew Gross had co-authored with James Patterson in the past.
As I began to read, I realised other reasons too. I’ve always loved historical fiction, particularly when such books are based on real events of a not so distant past.
The Spy, I soon found out, was published in 2016 in the UK and other English speaking countries as The Saboteur. How I bumped into this piece of information is quite interesting. On finding there’s no book by the name of The Spy listed against Andrew Gross’s name, I decided to add it myself as a Goodreads librarian. After filling in all the fields, when I reached the ISBN number, I got a pop-up: this ISBN number belongs to another title by the same author. When I compared the synopsis of the two books and they checked out fine, I realised all I had to do was list in Goodreads that I was reading The Saboteurs.
That little bit out of the way, I started to read this 400+ pages special Indian edition which was released in end March 18. The book is based on one of the most significant events of World War 2 which had a direct bearing on the outcome of the war. Germany was making heavy water at a power plant in Norway called the Norsk Hydro located in Vemork with the sole purpose of manufacturing an atomic bomb in a desperate bid to alter the outcome of the war which, by that time, had clearly started to swing in the favour of the allies. It was a top-secret mission and had the full backing of the puppet Norwegian government.
The king of Norway had escaped in the nick of time to England right before Norway fell to the advancing Germans. One of the men, who had been fighting the Germans, was an engineering college dropout called Kurt Nordstrum. After the Germans took over, he went into hiding and was reigned in by other undercover spies working for the king and backed by the British, to continue fighting. The resistance cost him a lot: he had to stay away from his old and ailing father and he lost his girlfriend who was shot. She was pregnant with their child he was to find out later. With the help of others, now collectively called the Free Norwegian Army, he highjacked a streamer and escaped to England. For the next few months, he underwent rigorous training and was airdropped into Norway with others to sabotage and destroy the heavy water stock after the first all-British team was completely lost. Kurt led the attack and the stock was destroyed but the Germans were soon back on track after repairs. He continued his sabotage work and in the final mission did destroy the complete heavy water stock of the German army. But not before, he had lost his father and another woman in fell in love with.
There’s a lot more in this highly readable book. Never a dull moment, this is, according to me, Gross’s best book. Not to suggest that his earlier books deserved less than 5 stars but this one is a notch above. A notch above 5 stars, but what could that be? 5 star+ perhaps.