Andromeda Romano-Lax (more on this fascinating name, later) struck it big in 2007 with her debut novel, The Spanish Bow, a story set in Spain and Western Europe from the days of the Spanish-American War to the beginning of World War II. That fascinating novel became a New York Times Editor’s Choice and was ultimately translated into eleven languages. Her follow-up novel, The Detour, scheduled for a February 2012 release, is set in 1938 Italy and Germany and shares a theme similar to that of its predecessor: the wartime ethical conflict that often occurs between the worlds of art and politics.
Young Ernst Vogler is already having his doubts about Hitler’s Third Reich when he is chosen to travel to Italy to bring a famous Classical Roman statue, the Discus Thrower, back to Germany for Hitler’s private collection. Even at this point in the history of the Reich, Hitler and the Gestapo are using intimidation to move Europe’s greatest art to new, permanent homes in Germany and Austria. However, what is described to Vogler as a simple three-day job to move the Discus Thrower to the German border is complicated by the fact that there are those in Italy who see the looting process for what it is, and are determined to stop the piece’s transfer.
Ernst Vogler, whose Italian skills are almost nonexistent, might not be the best man for the job. Things go off track almost immediately when a misunderstanding makes him two hours late for the meeting at which the Discuss Thrower is to be inspected and packed for the run to the German border. Way too suddenly to suit him, Vogler is riding in a beat up old truck with Italian twin brothers charged with the responsibility of getting him and his cargo safely out of the country. When the truck’s driver abruptly breaks from the little convoy and makes a run for it on his own, things get interesting for Ernst Vogler and his little team.
Vogler finds himself trying to navigate a world of secret agents, thieves, hapless lovers, and murderers - a world in which he can barely communicate and must, instead, rely on his instincts to separate the good guys from the bad ones. The question is whether, when things fall apart as it appears they surely will, Ernst Vogler will have the skills to survive the bad guys on both sides of the border?
The Detour is based on Adolph Hitler’s actual purchase in 1938 of the Discus Thrower from Italian authorities. This buy was one of Hitler’s earliest steps in his seven-year project to loot the rest of Europe of its most important art, a project so successful that it took years of work following World War II to accomplish its reversal.
Finally, we return to the author’s interesting name and background. Her first name is Greek, she shares a mixture of German and Italian ancestry, and she married into a Jewish family - a combination of factors almost certain to ensure that she have strong interest in Europe’s World War II history. The Spanish Bow and The Detour are the product of that interest.
Rated at: 4.0