Friday, January 22, 2016

FFB: The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth

The Odessa File is a 1972 thriller by Frederick Forsyth about a young German tracking down a notorious Nazi war criminal.

Peter Miller, 29, a freelance reporter for West German glossy magazines in 1963, comes across the diary of a holocaust survivor who chronicled the atrocities committed in a concentration camp. The more Miller reads the more angered he becomes and the more determined he grows to find the commander of the camp, assuming he is still alive and living under an assumed name in post-war Germany.

Miller sees finding the Nazi and bringing him to justice as a terrific story, but is unable to convince his publisher. The publisher is not alone, no one wants to help Miller, including government officials charged with finding war criminals.

Undeterred, Miller presses on, more determined than ever to find the camp commander. His efforts come to the attention of a tough Jewish group with the same goals. They help Miller and warn him of the danger involved.

As Miller digs, he has no idea he has a tiger by the tail. The man he is looking for is not only alive, but also a high-ranking member of ODESSA, a secret organization of former Nazi SS men operating in Germany as well as South America and the Middle East, where they are helping the Egyptians develop rockets to bomb Israel.

The spy services of Israel are aware of the ODESSA and its plans and Miller’s work worries them and forces them to send an agent to find out what this young German is up to.

Forsyth, who also wrote The Day of the Jackal, here crafts a suspenseful tale with several parallel tracks shadowing Miller’s quest. He also weaves in a good deal of background on the SS, the pre- and post-war Germany, and the current events of 1963. He builds his story carefully until about two-thirds of way through when he tosses in a great twist. From there, the book zooms off faster than Miller’s sports car on the Autobahn.


  1. I used to read him a lot when I was younger, but gave up on him - mainly because he used to spout off his political views, which were a bit different from mine. He did (and possibly still does) write great books.

  2. I had not read him in years, picked up this one on an impulse, and enjoyed it. I need to read some of his latest novels to see what you mean.

  3. Elgin, sorry I should have been clearer. He was giving his views in public as opposed to anything I disagreed with in his books.

  4. Read this waaaay back, before the movie came out. Loved the book, and, as I recall, the film version did it justice.

  5. Mathew - I saw the movie a long time ago, too. It is a little different, some scenes that were not in the book. Both are good. And now that you mention it, I would like to see the film again. Wonder if I can find a DVD?

  6. Forsyth was one of a dozen bestselling authors I used to read in my teens and twenties. I read this novel way back but my favourite is "The Day of the Jackal." I believe he would spend a year researching material for his books.

    1. Prashant – JACKAL is a great book, and an excellent movie, too. Forsyth was a journalist and he has this great ability to layer in a lot of facts to build a plausible background without bogging down the story.