Vonnegut excells with an exciting and dark memoir from a double agent during World War II.
What many don’t know is that Howard W. Campbell Jr was a sleeper agent for the US. He was recruited before his ascent through the ranks of the Nazi party, when he and his wife (the promising young actress and police chief’s daughter Helga) are focused on the theatre world.
At the Berlin Zoo, Howard meets US agent Frank Wirtanen, who recruits him to infiltrate the party and act as a sleeper agent, transmitting coded messages to the allies through the airwaves.
There’s only one problem. No one can back his story up. The war is over, Helga is dead and Howard has moved incognito to New York. When he is found out through a series of absurd circumstances, including the fact that he was unfortunate enough to move in next to a KGB agent, no one will believe his allegations.
Suffice to say, Vonnegut never fails to deliver a few very dark laughs and a perfect narrative. He manages to strike the perfect balance between Campbell Jr. being perceived as a despicable opportunist and a rather sorry and lonely man.
Creative commons image courtesy of Stefano Ravalli