The Eighth Dwarf

The Eighth Dwarf - Ross Thomas

Like The Unquiet Heart, this novel is set in 1946, in the aftermath of the war, but while that one opens in a sleazy London pub then whisks the reader off to Berlin,the opening scene of this story takes place in Beverly Hills, where ex-OSS operative Minor Jackson is at a very loose end.

 

So loose that when he rescues a Romanian dwarf from drowning in a swimming pool in  (actually from being drowned by a laughing group of full-size oafs) and the dwarf, Ploscaru, subsequently shows his gratitude by offering to let him in on an almost-legal deal that will make them a pile of money, Jackson doesn't hesitate.

 

It transpires that the father and sister of a certain Kurt Oppenheimer want him found and restored to them. The Oppenheimers are a rich Jewish family who escaped from Germany before the War, but Kurt insisted on remaining behind and doing something.

 

What he did was become a highly-skilled assassin.

 

Great. The problem is that now, after the War, he is still killing Nazis; and not only his family but everyone else wants him found. Which is easier said than done because Kurt is a master both of languages and accents and of disguise.

 

A gripping story, post-WWII in vivid detail, and a wealth of characters, many of them so unforgettable that you forgive the author the slight confusion that now and again sets in. Also, I have to say that if I had been writing this book, the ending – which I do not want to reveal – would have been different. But that is because I am still (a little) starry-eyed, whereas Ross Thomas was definitely a cynic. A very humorous one, however, and a master of his art. 

 

The Eighth Dwarf (yes, the other seven are Snow White's ones) is out of print (absurdly, in these days of Print On Demand) but I notice it is available from Amazon Kindle. The copy I have is a second-hand paperback - and I much prefer the cover!