“My Enemy’s Enemy” by Robert Buettner, Baen Books, 2019, 448 pages, $16
An Islamist attempt to detonate an atomic bomb in downtown Washington D.C. on Independence Day is accidentally foiled by a South Carolina sheriff. Knowledge of the attempt is suppressed. (Why let the bad guys know how close they came to success?) U.S. retribution is thorough and secret.
This is the launch pad for “My Enemy’s Enemy” a science fiction thriller by Robert Buettner. The terrorist group launching the attack has learned of a new way to strike Washington D.C., a secret with its roots in Nazi Germany. And they plan to try again. The Asp — a top terrorist is sent on a solitary mission to the U.S.
Peter Winter is a brilliant German physicist, a student and friend of Werner Heisenberg in 1930s Germany. His wife is Jewish, and they despise Nazis despite an uncle who is one of 16 Nazis killed in the Beer Hall Putsch. Winter is drafted into a secret Nazi effort to build an atomic bomb.
It’s bootleg attempt by the Shultzstaffel to steal a march on Heisenberg’s Uranverein bomb project. Winter was picked because Himmler assumes Peter Winter’s uncle means Peter is also a loyal Aryan. Winter cannot refuse. He and his wife decided to use it as an opportunity to slow-walk the project while saving Jews.
In the present, cattle rancher-turned-fly-fishing guide Frank Luck discovers an odd Nazi-era artifact in Colorado. He takes it to the Air and Space Museum in Washington. He gets paired with aviation historian Cassidy Gooding to hunt out the origins of the artifact. She’s a vegan as liberal as Luck is libertarian. Sparks soon fly, metaphorically and literally. Their search uncovers a potential new attempt to attack Washington.
The three threads soon braid themselves together into a fast-paced and action packed thriller. “My Enemy’s Enemy” reads like the result of taking a subcritical mass of “Schindler’s List,” “The Sum of All Fears,” and an Indiana Jones movie and slamming them together with enough force to start a self-sustaining chain reaction.
Buettner skillfully mixes actual history with might-have-been to create a plausible, terrifying, and entertaining story.