In the mid-1930s just as the United States was embarking on a policy of neutrality, Nazi Germany launched a program of espionage against the unwary nation. The Nazi Spy Ring in America tells the story of Hitler's attempts to interfere in American affairs by spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, stealing military technology, and mapping US defenses.
A historian at Edinburgh University, Mr Jeffreys-Jones draws the reader in with thrilling, but initially disparate, tales of German espionage ... This is an entertaining tale that doubles as an important work of scholarship. From its first days in power, Mr Jeffreys-Jones shows, the Nazi party strove to undermine American democracy. Along with recent work by other historians, his suggests that Nazi hostility to America—with its bill of rights, balanced constitution and thriving Jewish community—equalled or even exceeded its hatred of the Soviet Union.
Mr. Jeffreys-Jones, an expert on the history of intelligence and espionage, draws on newly declassified FBI documents and on the FBI’s file on Turrou. He pitches his book as a pacy spy thriller, but he lets trivial details from his documents impede the storytelling ... The narrative advances at the speed of an ocean liner. Despite the new archival documents, the author often relies on Turrou’s self-serving account of his investigation. The book’s coverage of the spy trial should have been a high point but is instead cursory and anticlimactic ... The book’s subtitle refers to “the case that stirred the nation,” the moment when Americans began to turn away from neutrality and against Germany. But not everyone was persuaded by the screaming headlines ... The Nazi Spy Ring in America shows that the threat was real, even as it fails to deliver an engaging narrative worthy of this fascinating episode.
The cast is vivid ... brings many scenes to life with novelistic detail ... The author lays out the story with the pace of a procedural and the perspective of an historian ... Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones has assembled here an impressive raft of new material through Freedom of Information requests and research at the U.S. National Archives. His writing is not always nimble, and sequences can be confusing. Some passages feel stilted, and we lose main characters for long stretches. But his storytelling instincts are strong, and it’s quite a tale. The real-life characters live and stray far beyond the conventions of spy novels, revealing a usually hidden cross-section of society mired in misdirection and ego at every turn.