The Good Assassin: How a Mossad Agent and a Band of Survivors Hunted Down the Butcher of Latvia

Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781328613080. $28. CRIME
In this thrilling account, Talty (A Captain’s Duty) tells parallel stories of the Holocaust and its aftermath. Jewish college student Zelma Shepshelovich survived the massacre of Latvian Jews in 1941, and also Herberts Cukurs, a Latvian aviator, Nazi collaborator, and mass murderer who fled to Brazil after World War II. In Brazil, whose right-wing government sympathized with Nazi fugitives, Cukurs ran his own business until revenge caught up with him. Israeli secret agent Yaakov “Moi” Meidad posed as an Austrian investor, lured Cukurs to a safehouse in a neighboring country, and shot him dead after a struggle. The assassination of the “Butcher of Riga” reminded the world that many killers had escaped justice. That same year of 1965, under intense pressure by Western democracies as well as Nazi hunter Tuviah Friedman, the German parliament grudgingly voted to extend the statute of limitations on Holocaust-era crimes, enabling prosecutors to indict hundreds of Nazi war criminals. Bloodbaths, spy games, and personalities—fiery Zelma, reserved Meidad, scrappy Tuviah, paranoid Cukurs—are recounted vividly but not exploited for shock value.
VERDICT A fast-paced, recommended work that enthralls, edifies, and reveals the disturbing extent to which Latvians and others participated in genocide.

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