Aging Nazi hunter Yakov Liebermann uncovers a plot to clone Hitler. Yakov Liebermann is an aging Nazi hunter who runs a Holocaust museum from his home in 1974, as a new generation loses interest in the war and its atrocities.
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One day he receives a phone call from an American journalist who claims to have overheard a conversation in which notorious escaped Nazi scientist Dr. Josef Mengele has been hiding in Brazil, and has ordered the assassination of 94 men across the globe. Six former SS officers have been dispatched on this assignment. The young man supplies the names of the targets and the following details; they are all civil servants, and all will killed on particular dates across the next three years, at the age of 65. Before he can reveal anything more he is killed.
Liebermann is puzzled by the outlandish claims but gets some volunteers from his museum to help investigate. They discover that several of the killings have already occurred, but after interviewing the widows are unable to come up with a solid connection between the victims. By sheer luck Liebermann happens to discover a startling clue when he finds himself in the US for business and decides to visit one of the widows in Connecticut. She has a thirteen year old son that is identical in every way to the son of another victim whom he met in Austria.
Galvanized by this discovery, Liebermann and his cohorts continue investigating and come to the conclusion that Mengele has continued his infamous genetic experiments with twins from the concentration camps. Further investigation turns up a woman named Frieda Maloney, an ex-Nazi now on trial for war crimes, she admits that thirteen years earlier she was tasked with multiple adoptions of infant boys by a German organization in Brazil, with specific instructions for the adoptive families. Lieberman comes to the horrible conclusion that Mengele has managed to create clones of Hitler himself. But for the plan to work the Nazis need to recreate Hitler's childhood environment for the clones, and have therefore placed them in homes with similar parents and are now reproducing the trauma of his father's death.
Meanwhile Dr. Mengele's operation has been shut down by his superiors after they've become aware of Liebermann's investigation, as they are not willing to draw the attention of other Nazi hunters or the Mossad. Furious, Mengele decides he will kill Liebermann and the rest of the targets himself to ensure the project's success.
Knowing none of this, Liebermann travels back to the US to meet with Rabbi Gorin and the Young Jewish defenders, enlisting them to protect the rest of the targets. Liebermann goes to the home of the next intended victim and finds Mengele there instead, in the ensuing altercation Liebermann is shot. But before Mengele can finish him off the son of the house comes home and releases his father's dogs, which were locked up in the kitchen. The dogs tear Mengele to death in front of the wounded Liebermann.
Liebermann survives and has to decide what to do next about the clones. Rabbi Gorin argues that they must all be killed for the sake of everyone's safety, but ultimately Liebermann comes to the conclusion that nurture is more important that nature. To Gorin's horror, he destroys the list of names so that neither Gorin nor anyone else can attack what are after all still innocent boys. The book ends on an uncertain note as we see one of the boys daydreaming about adoring crowds cheering an evil leader.
Best part of story, including ending:
The premise is outlandish but works really well as a thriller plot since Levin keeps the pace going at a good clip.
Best scene in story:
When the dogs kill Mengele, it's gruesome but you can't help but feel satisfaction at a real life monster's fictional death.