David Krugler, a history professor who previously wrote a nonfiction book called 1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back, makes his fiction debut with a WWII era spy novel called The Dead Don’t Bleed.
On the surface, The Dead Don’t Bleed has all the makings of a great spy thriller–including a great title! The story follows Lt. Ellis Voigt, who works for the Office of Naval Intelligence’s Sabotage, Espionage, and Counterterrorism division. Voigt has just been handed his first murder case, after a colleague of his is found dead in a back alley. During the course of his investigation, he uncovers several clues that may lead to a bigger conspiracy lurking over Washington, D.C. and the rest of America.
A German physicist who recently defected, a hidden, secret lab in New Mexico, and a recent finding of uranium suggest that Voigt is up against more than just Soviet spies who have infiltrated the United States. A nuclear bomb may be in play, so Voigt goes undercover to look for answers.
Krugler has the bones to a fantastic story, yet it somehow still manages to fall flat near the middle of the book. What I would assume is that the author’s intent to keep readers guessing, instead leads to confusion and dry periods. Just as I was ready to quit reading, Krugler saves the story by providing a refreshing and captivating final act–the ending of which I did not entirely see coming.
I love spy novels set in the WWII era, so I was excited to read this book–in fact, I wanted to like it. But in the end, this just didn’t do it for me. I was disappointed that Krugler’s story starts out so well, only to lose steam as the plot progresses. Again, the ending is pretty good, but I would guess that the average reader won’t hang around long enough to find that out.
I don’t want to entirely dismiss this novel either, though, because fans of this particular genre may find parts of this story enjoyable and fun to read. If nothing else, Krugler did deliver a true spy novel, packed with suspense–though at times, it doesn’t lead where you’d expect it to, which isn’t necessarily a good thing in this case.
The main character, Voigt, is interesting and compelling enough to follow. He’s developed fine overall–I only wish that Krugler would have given us more reasons to care about him early on.
The Dead Don’t Bleed is a fine fiction debut from Krugler, with plenty of high points throughout. Unfortunately, the low points are impossible to ignore, and they last entirely too long.
Author: David Krugler
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Release Date: June 7, 2016