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Blood of the Reich    by William Dietrich order for
Blood of the Reich
by William Dietrich
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've read every one of William Dietrich's novels from his Antarctica chiller, Dark Winter, to perceptive historicals (Hadrian's Wall and The Scourge of God) and his fabulous, tongue firmly in cheek Ethan Gage adventures that have ranged from Napoleonic France, Egypt and Jerusalem to North America (The Dakota Cipher).

Though Ethan Gage does not appear in this new over-the-top outing, Dietrich continues his recent trend of riotous historical adventures (with a surprising basis in facts) in Blood of the Reich. It alternates a modern day story with one set on the eve of World War II. Given the time frame and Tibetan quest, the obvious comparison is Indiana Jones. But, though the villains are just as wicked and the settings as exotic, there's no archeologist lead in this book.

In 1938 Nazi Germany, Kurt Raeder (who journeyed to eastern Tibet in 1934 on an expedition led by wealthy American zoologist Dr. Benjamin Hood) is tasked by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler with finding a dark energy source in Tibet, in order to 'help conquer the world.' (In an Author's Note at the beginning, Dietrich informs readers that his novel was 'inspired by a 1938 Nazi expedition to Tibet, its purpose debated to this day.') The sadistic Raeder is established as the main villain of the piece when we learn that he murdered his abused wife.

In present day Seattle, we meet naive software publicist Rominy Pickett, who 'believed a man's character could be divined by his location in the supermarket'. Disturbed by the frozen food guy's obvious interest in her, she exits abruptly, only to be tackled by him in the parking lot just as her car explodes. These events launch Rominy and her savior (investigative journalist Jake Barrow) on a quest to locate an inheritance of which she was unaware. Jake tells Rominy (who was adopted) that her real parents were murdered by neo-Nazis and that she's a descendant of Benjamin Hood.

Armed with a vial of the blood of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (who might have travelled to 'the ancient Tibetan kingdom of Shambhala'), and accompanied by four SS officers who are also experienced mountaineers, Raeder bullies his way into Tibet. His team then makes its way, accompanied by Tibetan nun Keyuri Lin (who has a past history with both Raeder and Hood), to the remote Shambhala Canyon. In the meantime, Hood has been recruited by a US intelligence officer to stop the Nazis from acquiring a weapon that might change the course of the coming war.

In China, Ben's helped by tomboyish aviatrix Beth Calloway, 'a regular Amelia Earhart' who flies him into Tibet. There, the two groups converge after the Nazis make a dangerous discovery. What does that have to do with the present day? Dietrich sends Rominy, Jake and Sam Mackenzie (an American they hire as a guide in Tibet) on their own headlong adventure in Shambhala and, from there to a showdown in the biggest underground cyclotron in the world, in Switzerland. It's quite a ride, filled with surprises, and not to be missed. As long as you can suspend a little disbelief, you'll revel in Blood of the Reich.

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