Harold Robbins’ 1981 bestseller Goodbye, Janette is a new low for a writer I thought couldn’t get any worse.
The book opens as the Allies are about to take over occupied France. A French collaborator named Maurice and a German general are preparing to escape separately.
They have put Jewish companies they operated during the war in the name of the beautiful Polish woman the General rescued from the concentration camps.
By convincing his uncle that he worked undercover for the Allies, Maurice will assure he inherits the title Marquis be Beauville. Then he’ll marry Tanya, giving her and her daughter, Janette, French citizenship. The General will join his family in South America.
When life returns to normal, all parties will profit.
That might have become a good novel.
Robbins turns it into a visual encyclopedia of sexual perversions.
After literally taking a whipping from Maurice, Tanya outsmarts him. They remain married, live more or less under the same roof.
Tanya isn’t aware that Maurice has started molesting Janette until she becomes pregnant after a week of being raped and beaten by Maurice and his male lover.
The night of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, German free-lance journalist Peter Miller followed an ambulance hoping to find a story at its destination.
What he found was Solomon Tauber, 56, dead from suicide.
Beside the body was a diary of Tauber’s experiences in the SS extermination camp run by SS Captain Eduard Roschmann, the “Butcher of Riga.”
After reading the diary, Peter feels compelled to find out what happened to Roschmann. He learns Tauber had seen Roschmann alive just a month before right in Hamburg.
Peter starts hunting for Roschmann.
Soon his snooping is noticed by Odessa, the secret organization of ex-SS officers living under new identifies, and by spies for Israel’s Intelligence Service who don’t want amateurs messing up their efforts to stop the development in Germany of a guidance system for Egyptian missiles.
Frederick Forsyth’s spins a suspenseful tale drawing on his career as an investigative reporter in Europe. He weaves actual names and events into his fiction so seamlessly that story feels both real and important.
Forsyth’s invented characters feel real, too. He gets the details right.
Best of all, Forsyth quietly raises questions about human motivation and whether citizens should be held guilty for actions of their government.