Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow

After his father died, Stewart Dubinsky found a batch of papers that related to things about his father that Stewart had never known. So Stewart sets out to find out his father’s story in an effort to know him better. This premise sounds so familiar you might think that the book would be boring or formulaic, but that is far from the truth. The secret that Stewart’s father, David, was hiding is that he was court martialed and sentenced to prison in 1945 after serving in Europe for more than a year. Stewart is so shocked by this revelation that he is determined to find the whole story.

David was a lawyer serving in the Army’s judge advocate general office during the army’s march across Europe after D-Day. He spent most of his time prosecuting or defending soldiers accused of crimes against French citizens; but in 1944 he was assigned to the case of Robert Martin, an OSS officer who had either become a spy or gone rogue. When David met Martin he became involved in one of Martin’s covert operations. He also became involved with Martin’s companion Gita, a woman who may or may not have still been Martin’s lover. Shortly after that, Martin and Gita both disappeared.

After the German surrender, Martin was finally recaptured and David was sent to bring him to trial. Instead, Martin disappeared again David was accused of letting Martin go. Shortly after his conviction, though, David is released without serving any time. Why would they suddenly drop all charges? This is the mystery Stewart is searching for the answer to, as well as the question of whether his father released the man he spent so much time searching for and if so, why.

The story of Stewart’s father’s service in WWII is a fascinating one. He becomes involved in the Battle of the Bulge and other fighting simply because he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is privy to some of the secrets of OSS and not to others. Turow’s novel is very different from his usual courtroom thrillers, but it is just as compelling. Even more interesting to me is the fact that many episodes of the book were based on stories Turow heard from his own father, who served as a medic in WWII.

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