The Sands of Sakkara
One of the possible turning points of World War II — looking back on it, it could easily have gone the other way — came in November 1943, as Roosevelt and Churchill met in Cairo to discuss, among other matters, the impending Allied invasion of Europe.
And Roosevelt was the linchpin that held the Allies together. What if, Meade speculates, Hitler and his crew knew about this meeting and began making plans to — is it very far too fanciful? — assassinate the President.
Drawn into the affair are two men, close friends, and the girl they both love, in totally comradely fashion. The summer of 1939, which they spent together on an archaeological dig in Egypt, was a joyous, wonderful interlude, beautifully evoked as a special time and place in all three of their lives.
Then comes the war. Rachel Stern, half-Jewish, is captured by the Nazis. Jack Halder, half-German, becomes an agent for the Abwehr, Germany’s military intelligence. And Harry Weaver is his counterpoint on the other side, working dutifully for the American effort and back in Cairo.
The plot is in motion. Lots of painstaking detail. Fascinating — and yet with surprisingly little suspense, perhaps because we know the plot did not succeed. It’s only on the personal level, once the paths of the three young people cross once again, that the book grasps the reader again and is not so easily put down. Everything else is history, and it fades into the background. The people living it are what makes it come alive — and on that basis, nicely done.