Basil's War
by Hunter, Stephen

An accomplished agent in the British Army, Basil St. Florian embarks on his toughest assignment yet as he, going undercover in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, searches for an ecclesiastic manuscript that holds the key to a code that could prevent the death of millions.

*Starred Review* Hunter, author of the Bob Lee Swagger series starring an American master sniper, now changes directions, geographically, temperamentally, and almost every other way. Basil St. Florian is a British agent with Churchill's Special Operations Executive in WWII; he is everything Swagger isn't: an English aristocrat with a flair for the outrageous, known for "trysts with American actresses and fights with Argentinian polo players," who becomes a spy and puts his talent for subterfuge to unfailingly flamboyant use. His latest assignment finds him parachuting into occupied France in 1943, tasked with photographing pages from a rare religious tract that the Nazis are using as the basis of a book code. Tracked by a wily German spy hunter, Basil cavorts about Paris, staying a half step ahead of his pursuer. There is plenty of suspense here, but the tone is delightfully jaunty, as this "human relic of the Kipling imagination," seemingly on the verge of capture, finds himself appalled at landing in a situation that appears to be "bereft of irony." The same can't be said of a novel written by a man known for gunplay and straight-ahead action. Hunter's remarkable versatility is on full view in this utterly charming caper, and fortunately there appears to be a sequel in the offing, in which we devoutly hope that Basil's delayed tryst with Vivien Leigh will finally come to fruition. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

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