Berlin, September, 1945. Two manuscripts are found in rubble, each one narrating conflicting versions of the life of an Irish spy during the war. One of them is the journal of a German military intelligence officer and anti-Nazi cowed into silence named Adrian de Groot, charting his relationship with his agent, friend, and sometimes lover, an Irishman named Frank Pike. In De Groot's narrative, Pike is a charismatic IRA fighter sprung from prison in Spain to assist with the planned German invasion of Britain, but who never gets the chance to consummate his deal with the devil. Meanwhile, the other manuscript gives a very different account of the Irishman's doings in the Reich.
The two stories contained within the World War II spy thriller The Torqued Man, by Peter Mann, fit together like the teeth of a zipper, one atop the other, until the whole thing is satisfyingly pulled into place ... They tell a story that feels at times like a John Le Carré thriller and at other times like Josh Bazell’s darkly comic novel, Beat the Reaper ... To give perspective and mystery to the already enjoyable plot of The Torqued Man, author Mann alternates his McCool chapters with the more academic writing of de Groot. This is a drier telling of events and one that carries with it a certain self-awareness, as if each moment must be analyzed and catalogued to later make sense of what one has witnessed. And though at times this feels like a derailment of the inherent dangers of Nazi Germany, de Groot’s narration often — and especially as the novel nears its ending – paints him as the book’s more human and relatable character ... But the true strength of The Torqued Man isn’t found in one story or the other, but in how the two stories skillfully come together as one ... engaging and entertaining
This clever, profane debut takes the well-worn trope of not-actually-Nazis and presents readers with a witty but also meditative look at the nature of self-belief and resistance and what it means to turn yourself inside out in order to survive. When, The Torqued Man asks, does the imperative to self-protect necessarily turn, if at all, into a call to selflessness in order to protect a greater vision of humanity? The bookending communiques of the officers in charge of the manuscripts serve to bracingly underscore the idea that we build our own legends, even as the rest of the book encourages us to strive to be better, to make smart, informed choices, and to fight fascism as and when we can.
Mann seamlessly intertwines two narratives to describe some of the same events from their wildly differing perspectives ... Mann’s brisk and well-constructed plot is enhanced by equally impressive prose that succeeds in making the inner lives of his principal characters as engaging as Pike’s often hair-raising (if occasionally ill-conceived) deeds ... A wily spy novel with a human touch.