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Abigail Thomas delivers an unsettling but elegant memoir; Christopher Reich scores with a Nazi-hunting thriller.

Mind Trips

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There's no denying it: "Safekeeping" by Abigail Thomas (Knopf, $22) is a very strange memoir. Your first reaction to it may be that Knopf has a nerve to charge $22 for a slight book, which has almost as much white space on many pages as it does print.

But if you read it, it is likely that you will be bemused by and then admiring of the author, who can take a moment in her life and bring it to life with elegant language.

The story is arranged in only roughly chronological order with each segment on a separate page. Perhaps it is in emotional order, or in an order in which these little minutes came to her mind. But Thomas can make you feel what she wants to. Take the single-sentence page: "You died, and the past separated itself from me like a continent drifting away." Or, "Despite the exhilaration, it was not a good time. Along with the excitement was always the fear, running by her side. She didn't know what would become of her and her three children. Because what was she doing? She was like the eye of a hurricane, high wind and water all around. She would (if she could) put her arm around the girl she'd been and try to tell her, Take it easy, but the girl would not have listened. The girl had no receptors for Take it easy ..."

Thomas made mistakes, beginning when she married (pregnant at 18), but she makes us care. If you like words well-chosen give "Safekeeping" an hour or two of your time.
— Rozanne Epps

The aftermath of World War II, the administration of a conquered Germany and retribution for the victims of the Third Reich are all vital components in Christopher Reich's spellbinder, "The Runner" (Delacorte Press, $26.95).

Devlin Judge, former New York City policeman and state prosecutor, has been assigned to the International Military Tribunal to oversee the trials of several key Nazi war criminals, including a callous SS officer, Eric Seyss, who systematically slaughtered a surrendered American regiment in Eastern Belgium. Among the causalities was Devlin's brother, Francis, a Jesuit priest and Army chaplain.

Devlin's joy at hearing of Seyss' incarceration is short-lived when Seyss, a noted Olympic sprinter, escapes from custody by means of an elaborate disguise. Devlin's desperate need for vengeance causes him to wrangle a temporary transfer to the Third Army of Gen. Patton in Bavaria, where Seyss is believed to have found refuge. Meanwhile, Seyss has been recruited as a linchpin in a plan hatched by German industrialists to restore Germany to its former glory by a daring act of violence. Devlin is given one week to apprehend Seyss, and this personal vendetta stretches across each province and municipality in Germany. It is through his mingling with every known facet of social corruption that Devlin finds an unwilling and unwitting ally in Ingrid Bach, former fiancée of Seyss and sister to a munitions magnate who remains one of Seyss' bitterest rivals for power.

"The Runner" is a welcome and gripping throwback to the explosive adventure novels of Alistair Maclean and Eric Ambler. Amid the intricacies of treachery and bureaucratic obstruction, the novel carries readers on an unstoppable excursion of chase and determination. The author can be commended for his uncompromising, bold assertion that even the allied powers do not occupy any moral high ground. American black marketers, the racial and ethnic hatreds of George Patton and Russia's blueprint to spread communism are themes compactly sewn into this taut story. This novel will immerse readers from its beginning to its climax.
— Bruce Simon

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