Picks and Pans Review: Night of the Fox

updated 02/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Jack Higgins

World War II continues to supply characters and incidents to writers of action fiction, and this new novel, by the author of The Eagle Has Landed and a dozen other books, is more imaginative than most. An American biographer of a British philosopher named Harry Martineau visits the island of Jersey, off the coast of Britain and just happens upon the burial of his subject—40 years after Martineau died in a plane crash. The story then becomes a flashback to shortly before D-Day. General Eisenhower is worried because the Nazis may capture an American officer who knows where and when D-Day will take place. In Germany, Hitler is trying to stop the generals who are plotting his assassination. These include that brilliant hero, Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox himself. Martineau, it turns out, was an intelligence agent as well as a philosopher. This is the kind of novel where a British spy can pass himself off as a German officer (he had a German mother, you see) and a Jewish cabaret entertainer can do flawless imitations of both Marlene Dietrich (singing Lili Marlene) and Rommel. There is a beautiful woman who loves the hero, then becomes a doctor and an Italian countess. She says things like "Most wars are a stupidity. This one isn't. We're right and the Nazis are wrong...It's as simple as that." The author goes briskly from scenes with Ike and British Intelligence, to Hitler's bunker, to rafts in the English Channel, to all sorts of sinister happenings on German-occupied Jersey. It's all preposterous, but Higgins never lets the breathless plotting flag. It's almost irrelevant that the characters are cardboard, the dialogue limp and the writing perfunctory. Fans of this kind of fiction care only about what's going to happen next. Higgins never lets up. (Simon and Schuster, $17.95)

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