Six Graves to Munich

Written by Mario Puzo
Review by Janet Williamson

This debut novel by Mario Puzo is a revenge-based thriller set in 1955. It tells the story of Michael Rosen, a man blessed with a phenomenal intelligence and memory, who was recruited during the war as a cryptologist in the Washington Intelligence Offices. After two years, he yearns for a more active involvement in the conflict, and is parachuted into France, where he works as an Allied Forces communications officer. He sees himself as a walking code breaker for the French underground movement, the Resistance. Billeted with the Charney family, he meets and falls in love with their daughter, Christine. They marry, and she is five months pregnant when the Gestapo raid the farmhouse and arrest everyone. He and Christine are taken to the Munich Palace of Justice, where seven men torture them separately in adjoining rooms, using his wife’s screams as an inducement to make him reveal all he knows. He gives them useless data, but they are equally as deceptive, betraying his trust and then leaving him for dead.

It takes him ten years to recover, during which time his health deteriorates and his memory has become a curse. His mind repeatedly replays the events within the Palace of Justice, and these images drive him on to extract revenge on his torturers. He is aided by his lover, Rosalie, another person who has been damaged by the war, and as she watches and learns from him, she becomes emotionally stronger and finds the courage to move on.

There are occasions when Puzo tells instead of shows, and the origins for settings and characters in The Godfather are recognisable, but from start to finish this book is an engrossing and compelling read.