In the midst of World War II, America and her allies find themselves racing against the Germans to see who can construct the first atomic bomb. While scientists all over the world are working on different formulas and equations, there are only two men on the face of the planet with the necessary knowledge to complete one of the most crucial steps in developing the bomb.
One of those men, a scientist, is working for the Germans, which means America must locate and secure the other. Unfortunately, they discover that the man they need is in the last place anyone wants to go in order to get him.
Nathan Blum is a young intelligence operative who, when we first meet him, is a translator for the OSS. Having escaped the dangerous Krakow ghetto, leaving his parents and sister behind (who were later all killed), Nathan journeyed to America to make a new life for himself. Eager to prove himself to his new country, he applies for deployment in an effort to “do something more” than just sit at a desk.
Instead, Nathan is summoned to the office of William “Wild Bill” Donovon (the head of the OSS), where he’s informed that he was handpicked for a special undercover assignment.
His Jewish heritage and ability to speak multiple languages, plus the fact that he’s already proven to have the necessary skillset to escape dangerous circumstances when he fled to America from Poland, make Nathan the perfect man for the task ahead.
His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to infiltrate Auschwitz, the most dangerous Nazi death camp in Poland. Once inside, he would have only two days to find Professor Alfred Mendl, who possesses critical information that, should Nathan be able to sneak him out of the camp, could be a game-changer for America.
Clinging to a key Jewish principle found in the Torah, Nathan decides to risk everything to save just one life, which he believes is the first step to saving the world.
Getting caught means certain death in an almost assuredly painful and agonizing way where he would be made to suffer and serve as an example to the rest of the world. But far more than just his life is at stake, as failure could quite literally be the difference between winning or losing the war.
A beautifully written novel that is heartbreakingly suspenseful, The One Man is an emotional ride through what can only be described as hell on earth.
This isn’t just Andrew Gross’ best book to date, it’s easily one of the best novels of the year. Everyone, regardless of which genre you typically enjoy, should read this book.
I was so stunned by the overall impact of the story that I was literally speechless after turning the final page. Gross, who recently switched genres to try his hand at writing historical fiction, has never been better.
While the author did change a few historical facts in order to make the timeline of his fictional events work, it’s not overly evident unless you happen to be a historian or World War II expert. Most of the characters, obviously, are not real. However, what the Jews inside Auschwitz go through in the book did happen in real life. Those scenes, while not frequent, are chilling.
Make no mistake, though, The One Man is a thriller. It’s not written to educate, though I suspect many will walk away having learned a great deal, but rather to entertain. Gross came up with an original idea, then wrapped it in nonstop, nail-biting suspense. The end result is nothing short of a masterpiece.
The characters are wonderfully developed and well-written. My personal favorite is a gifted sixteen-year-old chess prodigy who ends up playing a pivotal role in Nathan’s mission. But the entire supporting cast is rock-solid and engaging. Different personality types shine, as everyone can find a character to relate to in one way or another.
Also, Gross pulls off a rather large twist at one point, which is truly surprising and adds to an already emotional plot. Just when you think the story couldn’t possibly be any harder to put down, it soars to new heights.
Unlike a lot of historical fiction novels, this one doesn’t feel too long or bogged down with pages of facts and historical account. Often, novels in this genre tend to lose steam at some point because authors have to explain so much of the facts that the plot is built around.
Gross managed to avoid falling victim to that, though, as his pacing is steady throughout. There are no dry spots where the plot bottoms out or loses energy. Suspense is the driving force here, and you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough.
Honestly, I could have easily read two hundred more pages about these characters, and was truly sad when the story came to an end because I wasn’t ready to leave their world and enter back into reality. I don’t say that often, especially about books in this genre, but The One Man isn’t like anything else I’ve read in the past few years.
I loved everything about this book, including the emotional rollercoaster of events. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll cheer on these extraordinary characters as they attempt to defy the odds and escape beyond Auschwitz’s barb-wired fences.
Author: Andrew Gross
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: August 23, 2016 (Order now!)