Once upon a Time in France

Dead Reckoning: Naval Inst. Sept. 2019. 368p. ISBN 9781682474716. pap. $29.95. Rated: Mature. historical thriller
Joseph Joanovici (1905–65) immigrates to France from Romania in the 1920s and seizes control of his wife’s uncle’s scrap-metal business. Joanovici’s cunning and ambition help him become one of the richest men in Europe in the years leading up to Germany’s occupation of France, whereupon Joanovici eagerly agrees to collaborate with the Nazis in order to keep his family safe. He eventually amasses a vast fortune that he uses to fund the French Resistance and connections and influence that he exploits to liberate 150 citizens seized by the Gestapo, as well as to silence anyone who threatens to reveal that he’s secretly working for both sides. At the end of the war, Joanovici is proclaimed a hero by the French government and a traitor by those unwilling to accept the human cost of his actions.
VERDICT Reminiscent of the best novels of John Le Carré, but based on true events, this is an absolutely riveting thriller that asks difficult questions about good and evil and whether actions taken in the heat of battle can be fairly adjudicated in peacetime. It’s easy to see why this work has already won the coveted Angoulême Award and sold over one million copies internationally. [an editor’s pick, see “Fall Fireworks,” LJ 8/19, p. 23.]
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