The Madagaskar Plan

Written by Guy Saville
Review by Sarah Bower

1953.The Allies have capitulated after Dunkirk, and Hitler’s Reich covers half the planet. There has been no Holocaust, but six million Jews have been exiled to the island of ‘Madagaskar’, where revolt is simmering under the sadistic rule of Odilo Globocnik. The U.S. preserves a queasy neutrality under a president whose powerbase relies on the Jewish lobby.

Into this powder keg step former soldier, Burton Cole, and his nemesis, Walter Hochburg, who first appeared in Saville’s The Afrika Reich. Having returned home from the unsuccessful mission to kill Hochburg, which drives that novel, Cole finds his pregnant lover, Madeleine, has gone missing. His search for her takes him back to Africa, to Madagaskar, to Hochburg and the chilling arch-villain, Jared Cranley, Madeleine’s former husband. Although a sequel to his debut and marked by his same trademark set pieces of flamboyant and perfectly choreographed violence (a stampede of pigs, a burst dam, an exploding cruise ship), this book also works well as a standalone, fast-paced and ingeniously plotted alternative history thriller.

But it is so much more. It is politically astute, packed with memorable characters and written in a rich style full of cinematic, painterly, and even culinary allusions, musical motifs and dialogues with poets as various as Homer and Dylan Thomas. Though its principals tell us repeatedly they are motivated by hatred and revenge it is, above all, a profound love story which eschews easy answers and, ultimately, poses the question, can human love thrive at all, or is it always condemned to destruction by individual hubris and egotism?

A wonderful novel, funny and bleak, poetic and violent, action-packed and sensual. Very highly recommended, and not just to thriller enthusiasts.