Thomas Danforth has lived a fortunate life. The son of a wealthy importer, he traveled the world in his youth, and now, in his twenties, he lives in New York City and runs the family business. It is 1939, and the world is on the brink of war, but Danforth’s life is untroubled, his future assured. Then, on a snowy evening walk along Gramercy Park, a friend poses a fateful question.
As it turns out, this friend has a dangerous idea that can change the world. Danforth is to provide a place where a “brilliant woman” can receive training in firearms and explosives. This is to be the beginning of an international plot carried out by the mysterious Anna Klein—a plot that will ensnare Danforth in more ways than one. When the plan goes wrong and Klein disappears, Danforth’s quest begins: it is a journey of ever-shifting alliances and betrayals that will lead him across a war-torn world in search of answers. Now in his ninety-first year, at the dawn of a troubled new era, he sits in luxury at the Century Club and tells his tale to the young man from Washington he has summoned, for reasons of his own, to hear it.
|Publisher:||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
THOMAS H. COOK was born in Fort Payne, Alabama. He has been nominated for Edgar Awards seven times in five different categories. He received the Best Novel Edgar, the Barry for Best Novel, and has been nominated for numerous other awards.
Read an Excerpt
Century Club, New York City, 2001
The question was never whether she would live or die, for that had been decided long ago.
Danforth had said this flatly at one point deep in our conversation, a conclusion he’d evidently come to by way of a painful journey.
It had taken time for him to reach this particular remark. As I’d learned by then, he was a man who kept to his own measured pace. After our initial greeting, for example, he’d taken an agonizingly slow sip from his scotch and offered a quiet, grandfatherly smile. “People in their clubs,” he said softly. “Isn’t that how Fitzgerald put it? People in their clubs who set down their drinks and recalled their old best dreams. I must seem that way to you. An old man with a head full of woolly memories.” His smile was like an arrow launched from a great distance. “But even old men can be dangerous.”
I’d come to New York from Washington, traveled from one stricken city to another, it seemed, a novice member of the think tank that had recently hired me. My older colleagues had manned the desks of what had once been called Soviet Studies. They’d been very assiduous in these studies. There’d hardly been a ruble spent on missiles or manure that they hadn’t recorded and scrutinized. But for all that, not one of them had foreseen the abrupt collapse of the Soviet Union, how it would simply dissolve into the liquefying fat of its own simmering corruption. That stunning failure in forecasting had shaken their confidence to the core and sent them scrambling for an explanation. They’d still been searching for it years later when the attack had come even more staggeringly out of nowhere. That had been a far graver failure to understand the enemy at our gates, and it had sharply, and quite conveniently for me, changed their focus. Now I, the youngest of their number, their latest hire, had been dispatched to interview Thomas Jefferson Danforth, a man I’d never heard of but who’d written to tell me that he had “experience” that might prove useful, as he’d put it, to “policymakers” such as myself, “especially now.” The interview was not a prospect I relished, and I knew it to be the sort of task doled out to freshman colleagues more or less as a training exercise, but it was better than standing guard at the copying machine or fetching great stacks of research materials from the bowels of various government agencies.
“I remember that line of Fitzgerald’s,” I told Danforth, just to let him know that, although a mere wisp of a boy by his lights, I was well educated, perhaps even a tad worldly. “It was about Lindbergh. How ‘people set down their glasses in country clubs,’ struck by what he’d done.”
“A solo flight across the Atlantic that reminded them of what they’d once been or had hoped to be,” Danforth added. Now his smile suddenly seemed deeply weighted, like a bet against the odds. “Youth is a country with closed borders,” he said. “All that’s valuable must be smuggled in.”
I assumed this remark was rhetorical and found it somewhat condescending, but our conversation had just begun and so I let it pass.
Danforth winced as he shifted in his chair. “Old bones,” he explained. “So, what is your mission, Mr. Crane? The grand one, I mean.”
“Our country’s good,” I answered. “Is that grand enough?”
What remained of Danforth’s smile vanished. “I was young like you.” His voice was even, his tone cautionary, as if he regarded my youth as an animal that could easily turn on me. “Clever and self-confident. It was a very good feeling, as I recall.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
World traveler and business man, Thomas Danforth is a knowledgeable man living the high life in 1939 New York. Working with his father in the import business, Thomas has had the privilege of traveling in and out of the European continent, America, and the world...picking up antiques and art here and there, learning languages, making contacts around the world. In one night, his life changes when his friend approaches him about a project--a project that could change the world and perhaps prevent a war. One night, Thomas meets Anna. His world changes. Simply providing a place for Anna to train, Thomas tries to stay in the background as an observer of the project. However, the more he sees of Anna, the more he is drawn in to her plan and quite possible in to her. When Anna disappears, his quest begins. He will not rest till he finds Anna or at least word of Anna...a trace, a hint, a lead. Thomas Cook is a genius. This novel has so many twists and turns and side tracks that I kept turning pages in anticipation. A huge fan of novels based on this time period, the author definitely put a different spin on the typical World War 2 spy novel. This is a definite must-read, must-have for any and all World War 2 fans.
The story is narrated by a man in his nineties. He is looking back on the time when he was in his twenties and recruited to help in what was becoming the struggle against Germany in the days leading up to WWII.Thomas Danforth lived a pampered life and on a wintry night his friend persuades him to provide a place and cover for a young woman, Anna Klein. She was to be trained for a secret operation inside Germany. Her training involved firearms and explosives.The action is presented in alternating chapters of Danforth's life today and his memory of the pre-war days.Written with intelligence and literary excellence, we witness Anna facing her assignment with fatalism "...like a woman walking toward her future just as religious martyrs walked toward their execution sites."The reader knows what was going on in Hitler's Germany with his program against the Jews, but we're not sure how much Anna knows. We witness her bravery and stoicism and appreciate her as a character. Through the story we see glimpses of the evil in Germany and the brave few who were attempting to do something about it. It is a wold of deception and treachers. With this, we follow Anna and Thomas in nervous anticipation of their possible fates. Then something goes wrong and Anna disappears and Thomas attempts to find her.The theme of the novel seems to be a belief in oneself and having the courage to take a stand when we see something wrong. Thomas H. Cook's work is always entertaining and with the courageous characters who come to life in these pages, we see Cook demonstrating his literary excellence and story telling.
In a slight departure for Cook, The Quest for Anna Klein deals with intrigue during WW II. Danforth is reasonably wealthy and a friend asks whether they can use his Connecticut house to train someone for The Project. While Danforth doesn't know what the Project is, he agrees. There he meets Anna Klein, who he immediately falls for.Danforth ultimately gives up his upper class Manhattan life and fiance in order to travel with Anna to Europe and participate in her espionage activities. However, a failed mission casts doubt on Anna's loyalty.Cook's narrative begins with an interview between Paul (an unknown, who is assigned to interview him) and Danfarth in 2001 soon after the World Trade Center bombing. However, Danforth's narrative is dated, beginning in 1939.True to form, Cook packs enough mystery and innuendo and doubt about the characters into the book. There are twists and turns to keep everyone reading. Cook is a master and his writing usually has this ethereal air about it, which is somewhat present in The Quest for Anna Klein. All in all, it is a great read and whether you're a mystery fan or an espionage fan or just a fan of a good book, it's worth the read.
WWII has long fascinated me because of the immense courage of the people of the era. It affected every walk of life and every nationality. This story breaks down into little pieces the history of nations who all played a part in the destruction that was WWII. Anna is by far my favorite character with all the mystery she evokes and all the secrets she carries. The spy atsmosphere is truly an amazing look into the various points of Germany, Soviet, American triangle with the present references to the tragedy that was 9-11. The author has the very subtle comparisons of current day warfare with the epic war/subterfuge of the 30's-40's. I came away from this book with a fresh outlook on the subtle and dangerous game of covert affairs during national wars.It also has begun new areas of research that I can't wait to look into for details on lineage in the 1900's.