In 1962, the year of Adolf Eichmann's execution, CIA analyst Aaron Wiley, nephew of famed Nazi hunter Max Weill, tracks notorious concentration camp torturer Otto Schramm to Argentina—where Aaron becomes involved with Schramm's daughter.
What may sound melodramatic in summary becomes, in the execution, gripping and authentic. That’s because of Joseph Kanon’s mastery of the quotidian detail in The Accomplice, of the small frictions and sparks of human relationships. And his crisp dialogugue ... The historical thriller is thus drawn to the unexplored interstices, the dank crevices of history. This is where Kanon’s imagination flourishes. Here we get to explore what might have happened if Josef Mengele were actually kidnapped, instead of dying a free man while swimming off the coast of Brazil ... If the ethical calculus is murky, the narrative propulsion is clear. The result is a thoroughly satisfying piece of entertainment that extends a tentacle into some serious moral reflection.
The Accomplice is concerned with ethical quandaries and moral conundrums. Is Aaron serving the rule of law or simply seeking revenge? ... Such existential crises are countered by action sequences and plot twists that prove Aaron’s real-world mettle. When the chips are down, Aaron comes through like a veteran field op. 'Nice work, for a desk man,' the Mossad agent compliments him at one point. But Aaron’s ultimate payoff proves bittersweet.
... engaging but uneven ... Guess how long it takes for Hanna and Wiley to end up in bed together? It’s a well-worn pop-novel trope — he’s using her to pry info out of her, she’s using the affair to find out who the secretive Wiley really is and how dangerous he might be — and in Kanon’s hands it works well. The sex scenes are quite racy, the duplicity adding to the charge ... The sexy Aaron-Hanna cat-and-mouse game is the best thing in the novel. Also convincing are the ongoing geopolitical games ... Unfortunately, the novel grows wobbly in the last quarter or so, with cheesy car chases — do I hear the skritchy-scratch of a movie contract being signed? — and clumsy fisticuffs and gunfights that were uninteresting when they were staged in Monogram Pictures B-westerns in 1946. These scenes are unworthy of the moral and historical matters Kanon is grappling with. Luckily, in the final scene it’s the Aaron-Hanna relationship that rises to the narrative surface once again. This is believable and moving, less like Law of the Panhandle and more reminiscent of Casablanca — and that’s fitting.