Historical Thriller Falls Short Despite Promising Premise

Andrew Gross’s The Saboteur promises a gripping WWII tale of resistance and espionage but ultimately falls short in execution.

Set against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Norway, the story follows Kurt Nordstrum, a Norwegian resistance fighter who teams up with Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) to sabotage The Norsk Hydro plant, a heavily guarded factory set atop unscalable cliffs where the Nazis are manufacturing heavy water—a crucial component of nuclear weapons. It’s a mission they expect they will not survive.

While the author’s meticulous research and inclusion of real historical figures add authenticity, the novel suffers from several significant flaws. One of the most glaring is the lack of character development, leaving Nordstrum and his team feeling flat despite their heroic endeavors. The narrative reads more like a nonfiction account rather than a thriller.

Despite moments of tension, the pacing is sluggish, with the plot dragging in parts. The book needed tighter editing—the presence of typos in the final copy further detracts from the reading experience, highlighting a lack of polish that diminishes the impact of an otherwise intriguing plot.

I supplemented the eBook with audio, and the narration by Edoardo Ballerini is fabulous. He pronounced the Norwegian names and places correctly, which is not an easy task. Ultimately, The Saboteur is a great story, poorly executed. 3 stars.

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