The Holcroft Covenant by Robert Ludlum

Hot on the heels of Robert Harris’s Fatherland, I took advantage of my rare dip into the thriller genre and moved swiftly onto another Nazi crime story, by another Robert… The Holcroft Covenant by Robert Ludlum.

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Ludlum is best known for his Bourne series, which are possibly more famous as the trilogy of films featuring Matt Damon.

I’d barely finished Harris’s Nazi escapade before I got stuck into Ludlum’s book. Brought along to Bee’s bookshare by Steve, who was also the sharer of Fatherland (thanks Steve!). I couldn’t resist diving in as the plot sounded so intriguing….

Noel Holcroft, an architect living his normal architect’s life in New York, is summoned by Zurich financier Manfredi. Intrigued but also on the defensive, Holcroft meets the stranger, who tells him that his estranged father was the financial leader of the Nazi party. And that Holcroft and the eldest children of two other Nazi leaders are the heirs to a covenant that will unlock a £780 million fortune, squirrelled away by the leaders. When the Third Reich was at its height, the leaders discovered the true horrors of the regime, so set in motion a plan to bypass millions of pounds that would one day be passed on to their children, who in turn would give the money to the descendants of the Jews who had been so callously exterminated, in an attempt to rectify the Nazis wrongdoings.

Despite initial hesitation, Noel’s realisation that ‘nothing is as it was’ fuels his compulsion to find the other children of the Third Reich and honour the covenant. But everywhere he turns and every move he makes leaves a trail of death and destruction… and much like the idea of the covenant itself, the events that unfold become more incredible, more dangerous and fraught with the discovery that nothing is as it was but also that nothing is as it seems. 

I leapt gallantly into this 500 page hardback 1978 novel, drawn in by its promising dark story line and its wonderful scent of pages that have aged with the passage of time (the book itself is older than I am!).

I romped right through to page 180 without pause. But soon after I was struck with enduring several chapters of lazy writing, a crime step-by-step… I’m no thriller aficionado but I do like to work some things out for myself, and I was teetering on giving up on what had appeared to be a gritty thriller.

But a long train journey, a beautiful summer’s eve and some dedicated reading time helped me get hooked right back in. It’s not the best book I’ve read, it’s not the most chilling story – Fatherland is superior in my opinion – but once you start, you won’t be able to put it down, as you have to know how the story pans out – do the Jews get the money?  And what happens to Holcroft? Is his life change forever? And can there ever be penance for such atrocities?

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If you can excuse some superfluous romantic slush half way through where Holcroft falls in love rather quickly and needlessly with a fellow ‘damned’ child then do power through, it’s worth it.

Goodreaders say it’s his best book. It may well be. But I’m happy leaving it there. I’ve no intention to read another by him, unlike Robert Harris’s other books, which are now on my to-read list. The Holcroft Covenant is a solid 3/5 – it didn’t blow me away but it did grip me once I’d put the effort in.

And now to complete my summer thriller trio – Dan Brown’s Inferno (with yet another Robert) – let’s hope there’s no slushy love story there. Oops I forgot it’s a pageturner… of course there will be.

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