Everything I’ve read so far by Greg Iles has been in the same genre–modern day suspense. But Black Cross was a change up for me, moving into historical fiction and suspense. But Iles proved himself a master in historical fiction, too. Not that I’m surprised, as the Natchez Burning series required a fair amount of historical research to tell the story he wrote.
Black Cross is a World War II story. American Mark McConnell is a pacifist and scientist who’s been working in England when he’s recognized as one of two men perfect for a secret mission into the heart of Germany. Along with Jonas Stern, McConnell must sneak into a Nazi concentration camp where new poisonous gasses are being developed and tested. Their success could change the tide of the war, and could spell victory or defeat for the D-Day invasion.
But things start going wrong from the moment they step foot in Germany, and McConnell and Stern quickly start to realize they’ve only been told partial truths and blatant lies. They can’t trust what they’ve been told, they’ll have to rely on their own consciences.
A mixture of fact and fiction, Black Cross poses a challenging question that comes up during times of war or discussions of philosophy: the idea of putting the needs of the many above the needs of the few. Iles’ characters are faced with this exact question. They know their mission will benefit allied troops by destroying the poisonous gas, but especially for pacifist McConnell, the sacrifice demanded may be too much.
I did feel like the story took a while to get going, though I understand the need to develop the characters and give them the tools they needed for their mission. But the book was halfway done before they even landed in Germany.
While you knew for the most part where the story was going, Iles weaves in enough suspense to keep you guessing about how things will end for each character. No one is safe. And that kind of writing I find very enjoyable.