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Hidden Secrets and Intrigue During WWII - an Editorial Review of "Search and Deception"

Book Blurb:

Brian O'Sullivan, an art history professor, learns he was adopted after finding letters sent by his birth mother sixty years earlier. Filled with emotion, he decides to find her, hoping Katrina is still alive. But before Brian begins his search, he is summoned to Europe by his Interpol team to solve an old art theft mystery. Still keeping his role in Interpol a secret from his wife, he heads to Amsterdam and investigates the diary of a Nazi SS officer embossed with the initials "KvR." As Brian's team looks for clues to where the art stolen by the Gestapo may be hidden, it's suggested the diary may have belonged to the Nazi who fell in love with Katrina before the war, Karl von Richter. The team's search then takes them to old churches and former mosques in Andalusia to look for the hidden paintings. Soon Brian's search to find his mother takes him to Italy and on a harrowing path through anguish, intrigue, and deception and into a dangerous conflict with a previously unknown stepbrother who wants to kill him. Will Brian's conflict with his wife be resolved? Will her truth be revealed? And what will become of Brian's relationship with Nina?

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Editorial Review:

Art history professor Brian O’Sullivan has a soft spot for history and art but never expected to uncover his own secret history. That is precisely what happens when he finds sixty-year-old letters that his birth mother sent. Finding out that he is adopted opens a world of revelations for Brian and he intends to discover whether his birth mother, Katrina, is still alive or not in hopes of reuniting with her. Before he can get too involved in his quest of tracking down his birth mother, Brian is summoned to Europe by Interpol, who he has secretly been working with, to investigate an art theft crime. After arriving in Amsterdam, Brian is presented with an old diary of a Nazi SS officer. What he doesn’t know is that this diary he holds in his hands has so much potential of unlocking the past once he finds out that the diary may have belonged to the soldier who fell in love with his birth mother, Katrina, before the war. At the same time, Brian’s wife Grace has no idea about his involvement with Interpol or why he is traveling so much and she has her own secrets to hide. A strained marriage complicates Brian’s life and elements of romance start to appear in his other relationships. What secrets will Brian uncover and what secrets will he keep to himself? Search and Deception by Peter J. Marzano is a wily mystery with all the historical elements historical fiction fans will love. The book is full of action and a touch of romance. It will draw readers in and keep them on the edge of their seats throughout the entire novel.

Early tulips were already colorful in a few places. The spring weather in Amsterdam was warmer than expected and he’d brought all the wrong clothing. The sky was clear and deep blue. It reminded him of the lady with the blue eyes and how pretty she was. And then he remembered she was his real mother.”

Marzano has a plethora of knowledge involving World War II and does a fantastic job incorporating that information throughout his story. While the story is fictional, it often doesn’t feel that way. A variety of events such as Kristallnacht, the building of concentration camps, the seizure of art by the Nazis, and more were woven throughout the story. These events and the way they were referenced and represented were historically accurate in the novel. Marzano starts with a base of historical facts and then embellishes and adds to those facts to create a gripping mystery and novel. The events that take place between the fictional characters are entirely plausible within the historical context making the plot easy to believe and the story easy for readers to become highly engaged in. The story also takes place in multiple settings and just like the historical elements, Marzano does an exceptional job describing and representing those locales from the Netherlands to Italy.

Grace’s description of what was found in the deceased mother’s hope chest astonished him. But when she began describing what was revealed in a letter found inside the Bible, the details fully grasped his attention. He found Grace’s explanation of the story about Katrina and her relationship with Karl von Richter, the SS soldier, so extraordinary that for a few minutes, he lost the purpose of his surveillance task.”

Marzano crafts characters that are believable and paints them in a way that readers can more easily understand them even when they are characters that are not easy to empathize with. For example, Marzano talks several times about the radicalization of a Nazi SS officer and this is often a concept that is unfathomable and not understandable at all. Marzano is able to make it seem reasonable even though his words do not necessarily make the readers agree with the situation. He simply creates a scenario that readers can understand even without an agreement in the course of happenings. Marzano does this so artistically that readers can understand a character's point of view but still not necessarily like the character. On the other hand, Marzano’s protagonists are highly likable and relatable for most readers. It is also easy to understand the emotions that each character portrays. It is certainly a novel that invokes and shares a plethora of emotions.

As much as we loved each other, becoming a couple was impossible. She simply could not get past her youthful sorrows. It was incredibly sad for me. She is so beautiful, her blue eyes so striking. She remains in my mind as if she were sitting here with me.”

Marzano’s writing is well-developed and easy to follow. It is not full of overly-flowered language or extremely detailed imagery that might turn some readers who do not enjoy extremely detailed books off. However, there are some passages where the dialogue between characters feels forced and a bit unnatural. It is not overly distracting and most likely won’t be a deterrence for many readers.

Then as the years passed, she feared telling Brian the truth would destroy their marriage. But what she didn’t expect was her growing depression, the ongoing guilt, and eventually erratic mood swings.”

Readers who love World War II history will find Search and Deception a quite satisfying read. The historical elements combined with a modern-day mystery create a story that will draw readers in and not turn them loose until the last page. Marzano understands his target audience and does a great job writing in a way that will appeal to that audience. Readers who are not avid World War II fans will most likely still enjoy Search and Deception for its action, well-developed characters, and thrilling mystery. At just over three hundred pages, most readers should not find the book to be overwhelming and Marzano makes sure to bring all the elements together in a way that is satisfying for all readers.

Springtime in the Netherlands is always exceptional, but even the experts said this year’s spring crop of seven million-plus tulips at the Keukenhof botanical garden in the town of Liss surpassed those in years past. Millions of visitors who visited during the early-April to mid-May tulip season were not disappointed.”

All in all, Search and Deception is a highly entertaining historical fiction novel that is full of action and mystery while still pulling in all the historical elements that so many historical fiction fans enjoy. The historical research and excellent representation of historical events and places are evident and well done. Great character development is present but there is some forced dialogue. It is a wonderful book to grab for all the World War II historical fiction and mystery readers.


“Search and Deception” by Peter Marzano receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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