Fact and Fiction Prove Compelling in The Swiss Courier
- Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Authors: Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey
Title: The Swiss Courier
As a lover of historical fiction, I consider a good book one that both entertains and educates. The story and characters must be compelling enough to keep me engaged. But I also want to learn about the time period and events in which the story is set. Authors must be able to weave history and story together in a compelling mixture of fact and fiction. Trisha Goyer and Mike Yorkey accomplish that difficult feat with The Swiss Courier.
For all the war stories I've read, The Swiss Courier proved surprising, fascinating, and unique. It is set in 1944 Switzerland—a country that doesn't typically come to mind as significant in World War II. But the authors bring to life the pivotal role of the land-locked, neutral nation in the battle against Hitler's Nazi regime. They remind us that ordinary citizens were willing to take extraordinary risks and, in doing so, became crucial players in the struggle against evil.
Gabi Mueller, an attractive young Swiss-American, works for the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA). Soon her superiors notice the advantages of her dual citizenship, not to mention her unique ability to pick locks and translate German. These assets, combined with her loyalty to the Allied cause, send her into danger several times as the story unfolds.
In a surprising twist, the underground church becomes influential in Gabi's escapades. And the local farmer provides a hint of romance—but does Gabi have the time to think about love right now? Her most challenging mission involves smuggling out of Germany an influential German scientist wanted by the Gestapo. Why is he being persecuted? Why is he considered so important? Does Gabi succeed, and what are the costs of this endeavor?
Suspense and adventure define the story. Readers will feel much like a driver maneuvering a road twisting down a mountainside. Just as they build up speed, the road curves sharply and they must slow down to keep traction with the pavement. Yet even as they slow occasionally for the turns, they will sense the inexorable buildup of speed taking them downhill to their destination. Gabi and her clandestine colleagues live dual lives—innocent factory workers and farmers to their families, but in reality spies risking everything for the cause. I found it difficult to predict who was working for whom and what was coming next in many cases. One particular agent's true identity, revealed at the end, shocked me. As a spy drama, The Swiss Courier should prove highly entertaining
But what truly kept me engaged—history junkie that I am—was the amount of historical information imparted. The authors did their homework. They describe rural Swiss life, especially how the war imposed hardships on the people. Switzerland's arrangement with Germany—to keep their neutrality—and the underground spy network was all new to me. Adding to the story's authenticity, several real-life figures enjoy roles in the story, among them Allen Dulles, founder of the OSS (CIA); Heinrich Himmler, chief of Hitler's Gestapo force; Werner Heisenberg, German Nobel-winning scientist working on research for the atomic bomb.
History students and mystery lovers alike will enjoy this gripping adventure.
**This review first published on December 15, 2009.
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