Cover image of "The Eighth Dwarf," a mystery about a dwarf

It’s 1946. Captain Minor Jackson has just mustered out of the OSS, which had been disbanded one month after Japan’s surrender in World War II. Jackson was looking for an easy way to make money — a lot of money — when a chance encounter with a Romanian dwarf named Nicolae Ploscaru opens up what seems to be the perfect opportunity.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Snow White wouldn’t like this dwarf

At three feet seven inches tall, Ploscaru has found the ideal, six-foot-tall partner and front man. The dwarf has concocted a straightforward scheme to snatch a rogue assassin from the ruins of Nazi Germany and deliver him to his loving sister and father, who will pay them handsomely for the job. The assassin’s name is Kurt Oppenheimer. He is German, Jewish, and known to be a Communist.

Having served behind enemy lines for years both in Europe and in Burma, Jackson considers the assignment a challenge, but not a big one. And the $10,000 he’ll receive once they deliver the young man to his family seems to make the risk entirely worthwhile. (That sum would amount to $130,000 in 2016, taking only inflation into account and disregarding the enormous productivity gains that would greatly increase the buying power of the dollar.) Naturally, this is wishful thinking, since this story, The Eighth Dwarf, is one of Ross Thomas’ inimitable thrillers. And Ploscaru is anything but a character out of a fairy tale.

The Eighth Dwarf by Ross Thomas ★★★★★

Complications enter, beginning with the dwarf

Jackson quickly discovers that Ploscaru is a scoundrel who freely admits that he should not be trusted. To make matters worse (naturally), when the pair arrive in Germany, it becomes clear that they’re not the only people on Oppenheimer’s trail. The Communists want to capture the young man, who is not a Communist after all; apparently, they want to send him to Palestine to wreak havoc on the British occupiers.

The British and the Americans — independently — both want to find him for their own reasons, which are clearly different, whatever they may be. And, of course, the family has its own reasons for wanting to find him. Meanwhile, Oppenheimer proves to be a masterful linguist who can pass not just for German but for British or American as well, upper class, low, or in-between. And unsurprisingly he has plans of his own. Naturally, the story becomes gorgeously complicated. It’s fun from beginning to end.

About the author

Ross Thomas wrote twenty-five novels from 1966 to his death in 1995. He won numerous literary awards.

I’ve listed and linked my reviews of all the Ross Thomas novels I’ve read here: Reviewing Ross Thomas – thrillers that stand the test of time.

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My post 10 top nonfiction books about World War II may also interest you.

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