by Joanne Dobson and Beverle Graves Myers, Poison Pen Press, September 2012
I may have to start a separate blog to review all of the WWI and WWII historical fiction that I read! Face of the Enemy is yet another World War II historical mystery, this one set in New York City right around the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. The story features both Japanese and German emigrants who are immediately classified as enemy aliens as the war begins. Masako Fumi, a Japanese artist married to an American academic is detained by the FBI and suspected of spying for the Empire of Japan. Masako is at odds from her father who is a minister in Tojo’s government. Helda Schroeder, a German immigrant running a boarding house for young women in NYC is estranged from her husband who has returned to Germany to support Hitler. There is not a single protagonist in this story but two young women living in Helda’s boarding house serve the role. Cabby is an aggressive New York Times reporter and Louise is a private duty nurse.
The plot thickens when Masako’s art showing is cancelled because of anti Japanese sentiment and her art dealer is murdered. Events move right along after this. We are treated to a whole host of characters- the grizzled NYPD detective investigating the murder, the FBI agent grilling Masako, America Firsters preaching against the war, the hard bitten news editor, closet homosexuals, the German American Bund, the liberal Jewish lawyer and the NYC upper crust are all represented here. The murder plot of the art dealer is fairly straightforward and the subplot of the returning Nazi husband bent on involving his American son in sabotage is woven into this mystery. The two roommates, Cabby and Louise are up to their eyeballs in the story, Louise as the private duty nurse to Masako’s ailing husband and Cabby investigating the murder for the Times. If this story sounds complicate in my description it really isn’t. It moves along with short chapters that are undemanding in delivering their message.
This story does a good job of creating the New York City of the 1940s. The period detail is quite good but I found the characters to be very stereotypical and not have much depth. The plot almost takes a backseat to all of the cultural and historical references that are going on in this story. I think this book would be a good companion piece for teenagers studying WWII a/o civil liberties. It gives a fairly accurate portrayal of what it was like for enemy aliens in the US as WWII broke out. If you like historical fiction you’ll find this a quick read with some interesting detail.
I read a copy of this novel provided by the publisher.