05 March 2012

Review: The Detour by Andromeda Romano-Lax

In the late 1930s, before the fighting has started, Ernst Vogler is working for Hitler's art-collecting department in Berlin. When his supervisor mysteriously disappears, he is given a special assignment: Go to Rome, pick up the ancient marble statue The Discus Thrower, and transport it across the border to German-held lands. It was to be a quick trip, and the arrangements were made for him. But even as Ernst receives the crated statue and meets his escort of two Italian policemen, who happened to be identical twins, he senses that things are already heading off course.

Once the trio is on the road, the brothers begin to disagree on which route to take and when and where they should stop. All Ernst wants is to get the statue home by the quickest way possible. When the twins' argument take a serious turn, Ernst finds himself enmeshed in much more than family trouble and is soon worried about his personal safety and future.

The Detour, by Andromeda Romano-Lax, is told as a frame story. The beginning and end are in the present tense, which in this context is about 1948, leaving the bulk of the novel to be told as a memory. From the first pages, we have hint of where the story might lead, but Romano-Lax's characters have their own ideas how they'll take us to that end.

Although The Detour is clearly a story of the early days of Nazi Germany, it covers new ground. Ernst's rise in the party is mostly accidental, and he is generally smart enough to accept and be grateful for his good luck. On the other hand, serendipity has made him somewhat unobservant, and he doesn't realize until it's too late that the brothers have essentially taken over his mission.

Romano-Lax's descriptive prose of the northern Italian countryside and its people is vivid when Ernst's memories are sharp and clear and becomes appropriately vaguer when Ernst himself is unsure of past events. This device works well and tightens our connection to the young art collector. In the end, Ernst's story is a well-constructed tale of awakening--to self-acceptance, love, death, and the dark side of the Third Reich.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (AudioGo, 8 hr, 17 min) read by Dan Butler. My complete (and positive) audio review was written for AudioFile magazine.

Buy The Detour at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Soho Press, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781616950491
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Julie P. 3/5/12, 6:45 AM  

Sounds like one that Booking Pap Pap or I might enjoy.

Kaye 3/5/12, 10:15 AM  

This does sound wonderful. It's going on the list. Thanks for such a great review.

Zibilee 3/5/12, 12:49 PM  

I like the sound of this book, and I am considering grabbing it on audio when I can. I like the idea of a frame story being populated from memories from the past, and would love to see how everything works out in the end. Great review on this one today. Thanks for sharing it.

bermudaonion 3/5/12, 2:06 PM  

Sounds like a great book! I do think there were probably plenty of people who found themselves rising in the ranks of the Nazi party accidentally like that.

Andromeda Romano-Lax 3/5/12, 4:21 PM  

Thank you for the thoughtful review.

Robin McCormack 3/5/12, 5:43 PM  

Does sound good. Adding it to my wishlist. Thanks.

Kailana 3/7/12, 12:50 AM  

This sounds good. On to the wish list it goes. :)

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