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Operation Napoleon    by Arnaldur Indridason Amazon.com order for
Operation Napoleon
by Arnaldur Indrišason
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Arnaldur Indrišason, author of the excellent Reykjavķk Murder Mystery series, now brings us Operation Napoleon, a standalone thriller (translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb) rooted in extraordinary World War II secrets, whose revelation U.S. intelligence officials will stop at little to prevent.

The story opens, 'A blizzard raged on the glacier.' In 1945, a German bomber (with both senior American and Nazi officers on board and piloted by an American) crashes into the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland. Of the survivors, one German officer braves the blizzard and attempts to walk to civilization.

He staggers on, a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, while in a farmhouse to the east two brothers have heard the plane and plan to report it once the weather dies down. Though a U.S. expedition seeks the plane only days later and spend weeks combing the glacier, it is unsuccessful.

In 1999 when ice melts, the glacier shifts, and satellite photos finally reveal the crash location, a US intelligence organization mounts a covert Special Forces expedition to recover the plane and its contents. General Vytautas Carr sends a ruthless fixer named Ratoff to direct operations and assure that the plane and its contents remain a secret.

Kristin, a Foreign Ministry lawyer in Reykjavik, is having a bad day, harangued by businessman Runolfur Zophaniasson, who blames trade department advice for his financial problems in Russia. Little does Kristin know that her day is about to get much, much worse.

Her younger brother Elias is a member of the Reykjavik Air Ground Rescue Team, which is on a winter exercise on the Vatnajökull glacier. Elias and a friend break away from the group to test drive their snowmobiles, and spot the U.S. expedition. On the phone to Kristin as they're captured by armed soldiers, Elias mentions a plane.

Ratoff sends a hit team to deal with Kristin and make it look like suicide. Serendipity gives her an out but leaves her a murder suspect. She enlists the help of Steve, a U.S. army press officer with whom she had a prior relationship. Pursued by Ratoff's men, they seek answers, eventually making their way to the glacier and the crash site.

Operation Napoleon is a thoroughly gripping read, the puzzle of what the plane carried pulling reader interest through the story. Kristin is an engagingly gritty heroine, stubborn as they come and determined to get answers no matter how far it takes her. She succeeds but the personal cost is higher than she anticipated.

Indrišason's growing legion of fans will not want to miss this engrossing new offering, and can also look forward to Outrage, the next Reykjavķk Murder Mystery starring Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and his colleague Sigurdur Oli.

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