A Welker & Saboy Thriller, Book 1
“The Bells of Hell” is a novel set in New York City in 1938. It loosely is a story involving the IOS, which is a probable precursor of the OSS, in its own right the organization that became the CIA. War clouds were appearing all over Europe with Hitler turning Germany into a militarized police state. The emphasis by the fuhrer was to set up many groups – Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, Negros and others deemed non-Aryan as scapegoats to be ostracized by Germany as unworthy to be members of that society. In addition, Germany arranged a plebiscite in Austria to determine if that country would be willing to join in whatever aggressive activities were dictated to them by Hitler.
The situation in New York was that Nazi groups were openly working to push the United States into joining Germany in the war against their perceived enemies. They were also working to cast dispersions on any prominent members of the Jewish faith. Kurland is quite vocal in his writing critiquing J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for his stance at the time of the novel on seeing only communists as enemies of the U.S. German bund activities were not important to him.
As the story opens, Otto Lehman is arriving by ship from Germany and is kidnapped as he debarks and is killed. Andrew Blake, a homeless man, sees the murder and in being questioned indicates that the killers were speaking German. Consequently, Jacob Welker who was then president Franklin Roosevelt’s own counter-intelligence agent is brought to New York to question Blake. As a result of the talks, Welker recruits Andrew Blake as well as Lord Geoffrey Saboy, who is the cultural attache for Great Britain and his wife, Lady Patricia, to help him with investigating whatever the Nazis are planning, beginning with the murder of Otto Lehman.
The author’s style is light, a bit tongue-in-cheek, making the novel an interesting read. It is written well enough to recommend it’s reading although not nearly an all night draw. The characters drawn up with the beginnings of an organization such as the CIA in the background are interesting enough to certainly warrant looking for future novels by Michael Kurland.
12/19 Paul Lane
THE BELLS OF HELL by Michael Kurland. Severn House Publishers; First World Publication edition (December 3, 2019). ISBN 978-0727889690. 256p.