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by Michael Slade

Swastika, Michael Slade’s new novel, opens at the beginning of the end of the Third Reich. Hitler is losing his mind, fantasizing that the Nazis can still snatch victory from the already victorious Allied troops. Or is it a fantasy? Have those brilliant German engineers come up with a weapon so advanced, so deadly, that Hitler and his remaining soldiers could mount a serious challenge to the Allies even as they prepare to take Berlin?

The second stream of Slade’s novel takes place in present-day B.C. The common element is the Nazi swastika, which has been carved into the foreheads of the victims of a series of grisly murders in Vancouver.

Michael Slade has a reputation for conducting extensive research before beginning to write his novels, and there is much evidence of this in Swastika. The scenes in Hitler’s bunker and the V2 rocket factory are so descriptive that it’s difficult to know where historical fact leaves off and fiction begins.

It is in the first half of the novel that Slade doth describe too much. The pace is slower as he sets the scenes in Nazi Germany and B.C., introducing readers to the murderers and to Sergeant Dane Winter and the other members of the RCMP’s Special X Division. Slade’s breadth of knowledge is admirable, but spending pages describing the layout of the RCMP headquarters and the office of Big Bad Bill in the Pentagon is too much. This is a minor quibble, though, and the good news is that once the scene is set the story races along like a hound on the scent.

As his fans know, Michael Slade is not a he but a they, a pseudonym for Jay Clarke and his daughter Rebecca. The publisher is promoting this title as a switch in genres for the master of the macabre, but Slade has played around with different genres in the past. In terms of horror, the detailed descriptions here of Nazi Germany’s death camps and the treatment of those used as slave labourers, not to mention the gruesome murders in B.C., are plenty horrific. While unlikely to appeal to the truly squeamish, Swastika will please Slade’s legion of fans and anyone who enjoys a good thriller with a historical bent.