Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: The Katyn Order - excellent follow up to Night of Flames

Douglas W. Jacobson

ISBN-13: 978-1590136478

Publisher: McBooks Press (May 1, 2011)
Print: $16.95
Kindle: $9.95


From the publisher: The German war machine is in retreat as the Russians advance. In Warsaw, Resistance fighters rise up against their Nazi occupiers, but the Germans retaliate, ruthlessly leveling the once-beautiful city. American Adam Nowak has been dropped into Poland by British intelligence as an assassin and Resistance fighter. During the Warsaw Uprising he meets Natalia, a covert operative who has lost everything—just as he has. Amid the Allied power struggle left by Germany’s defeat, Adam and Natalia join in a desperate hunt for the 1940 Soviet order authorizing the murders of 20,000 Polish army officers and civilians. If they can find the Katyn Order before the Russians, they just might change the fate of Poland.

My review: Jacobson’s second novel suffers no hint of sophomore syndrome; The Katyn Order is more mature and even better than Night of Flames. Carrying on from Night of Flames with the fate of Poland at the end of World War II and the months afterward, the author tells the story of the resistance movement and how the obliteration of Poles didn’t stop with the Nazis, but continued on after the ceasefire with the Russian NKVD. The book is unflinching in the detailed extermination efforts and I found the details amazing. True, there is a lot of description, again some of which I leafed through, but those who want a vicarious adventure through historical Poland will get what they want.

It’s not until nearly half-way into the story that the title quest is explained. Jacobson takes an event from history and evolves a scenario of deceit, betrayal, murder, and a thrill ride in an attempt to save Poland. History knows that attempt failed. Adam Nowak, a resistance operative, meets and falls in love with Natalya, another operative whose family was captured and brother killed in the Forest of Katyn in 1940, toward the end of the war. Eventually Adam learns that his law professor uncle who raised him and was sent to a death camp is not dead after all, but a founder of the resistance. The uncle is also a keeper of a dire secret, the only copy of the order signed by Stalin to murder thousands of soldiers and officers in the Forest of Katyn. The Russians then blamed the Nazis when the massacre came to light. If, perhaps, this document can be found and shown to the world, Stalin and the Soviet Union might not be able to get their hands on Poland if international outrage holds sway.

So, I admit I read the end of books upon occasion; I didn’t here. But I did stop and read some of the reviews. I fully expected the story to fall apart after reading several of them, one of whom apparently didn’t actually read the end. Instead I found Jacobson’s resolution of the events to be multi-layered, thoughtful, brilliant; the kind of ending that stays with a reader for days. 

The Katyn Order is ultimately a story of trust and faith, and lack thereof, of choosing sides and fighting for what you believe in. Highly recommended for those who love World War II gritty fiction. It is fiction, by the way, steeped in recorded events. The only reason I would consider giving less than a perfect review is because of the excessive blood and gore. That is war, and my slight squeamishness is too subjective to downgrade. Although I was provided a review copy of this novel, I purchased a copy for a gift. I majored in Russian studies in college, visited the Soviet Union, and have a smattering of Polish-area genes. Remembering my visit to Leningrad, to Moscow, seeing and walking among the constant presence of soldiers at that time, hearing the stories of World War II, even in the early 1980s--I have to say that the era has never been fogotten in Europe as its all too easy to do here in the States.
Douglas W. Jacobson is an engineer, business owner and World War Two history enthusiast. Doug has travelled extensively in Europe researching the courage of common people caught up in the most catastrophic event of the twentieth century. His debut novel, NIGHT OF FLAMES: A Novel of World War Two was published in 2007 and released in paperback and Kindle in 2008. NIGHT OF FLAMES won the "2007 Outstanding Achievement Award" from the Wisconsin Library Association. He is the author of THE KATYN ORDER, 2011. Doug has also published numerous articles on underground resistance actions in Europe and is currently working on his third historical novel set in Europe during World War Two. Doug and his wife Janie live in Elm Grove, Wisconsin.

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