And so this masterpiece, itself commemorating an ancient slaughter, five centuries later will become the trigger for bloodshed and betrayal… -From Theft of the Master, page 4-
Priceless works of art and cultural artifacts were stolen by the Nazis before World War II ground to a halt. Edwin Alexander’s debut novel – Theft of the Master – is based on this historical fact. The novel opens in 1493 in Estonia with the commission of a carving of Christ. It then fast forwards to 1992 where the reader is introduced to The Templars – modern day Nazis intent on preserving “German cultural heritage.” Alexander sets up the novel carefully – structuring it after a game of chess – while he moves from Germany to the coast of Northern California where a young woman is drowned under suspicious circumstances. Enter Al Hershey, a private investigator small in stature but big in street smarts and Marine experience. Hershey is a likable character who is adept at getting himself out of tight situations. Hired by the dead girl’s parents, Hershey wastes no time unraveling the mystery from California, to Paraguay, to Estonia to Germany and back to California.
While the novel faltered at times with some cliche characters and plot gaps, Alexander’s ability to tell a story with plenty of twists and turns keeps the reader flipping the pages. One of the strengths of the book is its reliance on historical fact to support the fictional elements…and I have to admit that was my initial interest in the book.
Alexander has a web page which includes an interview with him about this book, along with some additional information about the history of the novel. He is currently working on his second Al Hershey novel.
Theft of the Master was a quick and ultimately satisfying read and I can recommend it to readers who enjoy thrillers and historical fiction.