MixedThe Wall Street JournalMayer had the kind of devil-may-care spirit that bursts off the page ... Mr. Lichtblau’s narrative lacks immediacy or much driving momentum. The storyline is further hampered by what feel like pocket-guide histories—of the OSS, for example, or American attitudes toward Jews. Once the book hits the halfway mark, however, and Mayer parachutes with his small team onto a glacier high in the Austrian Alps, readers are launched on an exhilarating ride. One senses that Mr. Lichtblau was eager to reach this point himself: His writing becomes tauter, details pop and characters vividly spring alive ... Despite his intention to reveal an untold story of bravery, Mr. Lichtblau does not furrow much new ground here ... Freddy Mayer, who died two months after his meeting with Mr. Lichtblau, is an irresistible subject, and he deserves a dozen more recountings of his adventures.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalFew books have enthralled, incensed and haunted me as The Volunteer has done ... The actions of Witold Pilecki, and the superb account of them by Jack Fairweather, inevitably engendered an array of intense emotions ... Those who have read about the Holocaust will recognize the Dantean hell in which Pilecki found himself. But familiarity with the facts will not lessen the impact of the brutality chronicled by Mr. Fairweather ... The Volunteer might have benefited from using more of Pilecki’s own language from his reports rather than filtering them through Mr. Fairweather’s authorial voice. Also, a deeper insight into Pilecki’s background and interior life—what it was about his basic nature that allowed him to act with such persistent courage against every obstacle—would have been welcome. But these are minor criticisms ... This is a story that has long deserved a robust, faithful telling, and he has delivered it.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"... wondrous ... If readers are looking for a three-act narrative of events that shaped the destiny of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, they will not find it in this book. There are certainly episodes of high tension, including the James Bond-esque sinking of an armed yacht originally built for Hitler, but there are also many more that highlight the daily struggles these spies faced, whether with boredom, identity crisis, loneliness or their faith in the mission. These personal struggles are just as compelling ... It’s a fine line, but over all Friedman succeeds in portraying the \'stories beneath the stories\' that acted as bedrock to the rise of the Mossad and serve still as a window into Israel’s troubled soul.\