Leopold's Assassin

JR Rogers
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1902 – It is a cold and rainy Saturday morning the 15th of November in Brussels, Belgium. Gennaro Cataldo, an Italian anarchist, has traveled incognito to Brussels from London and Paris. In the Belgian capital he plans to assassinate Leopold II, King of the Belgians. Positioning himself on a roof Rubino fires repeatedly at King Leopold’s carriage as the cortege, returning from a memorial service for the King’s deceased wife, passes below. Unable to determine whether or not he succeeded, Rubino escapes to France.

We find Cataldo hiding in Brittany, living with his sister in wooded Saint-Enogat, a hamlet adjoining Dinard, France, a then fashionable seaside resort of stunning cliff top villas, a fabulous casino and a burgeoning art colony favored by American and British aristocrats and European royalty. Descending on Dinard every summer, they occupy the only first class hotel in town rather than rent villas, give lavish parties for one another and, in the evenings, book every restaurant in town.

But when Cataldo learns that Leopold II, accompanied by his nineteen-year old mistress, will be arriving in Dinard aboard his yacht to gamble at the famous casino he jumps at the chance. He aims to finish what he failed to accomplish that day in Brussels.

The murderer flees first to Peru aboard The City of Bruges a transatlantic steamer sailing from the walled city of Saint Malo across the bay. Once aboard he attempts to fit in with a hoard of thieves and crooks and con men who, like him, are escaping to South America to find new adventures and to remake their lives.

But close behind comes George Remi, a well-funded and determined Belgian Secret Service detective who has set off from Brussels to bring Rubino to justice.

Unprepared for a life on the run Cataldo treks across Latin America in search of a refuge but in the end he makes the mistake of his life by deciding to settle in Kourou, French Guiana, the overseas capital of the French colonial penal system and infamous Devil’s Island.

 

 

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About the author

J.R. Rogers is a novelist of historical thrillers of espionage and foreign intrigue. He has written six novels and also a collection of short stories. A number of them have been published in various literary and online publications.

Other than writing fiction his interests include art and architecture, culture, indie film, photography and world travel.

He has lived in Europe and Africa and now lives in southern California.

 

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Additional Information

Publisher
JR Rogers
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Published on
Aug 23, 2011
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Pages
300
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ISBN
9781465988621
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Thrillers / Historical
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Colonel Francesco Ferrazza, a disciplined and inflexible Royal Italian Army officer with Italy’s Fascist Military Information Service, and his attractive British wife, Emilia, are posted to Asmara affectionately referred to as ‘Little Rome’ by Mussolini. The colonel is a familiar figure at the military casino and bordello where he brags at the bar he can bend a fireplace poker in half. But he is astonished when in 1938 he is ordered by his Rome superior to set in motion an unusual but clandestine sabotage operation of the engineering marvel that is the Asmara-Massawa cableway that links Italian Eritrea to the sea.

Built by the Italians it is the longest aerial line of its kind in the world but it is of such strategic importance the army comes to realize they may have made a strategic mistake in constructing it. They fear it could fall into the hands of neighboring Ethiopia—whom they defeated in a colonial war just two years ago.

Fearful of the devastating power of exposure Ferrazza sets out to find someone to carry out Operation Red Lion and meets Mario Caparrotti, an amateur race car driver. He plans to compete in the first Christmas Day automobile race through town.

Greedy, boastful, and ignorant, Caparrotti is all of the things the colonel detests in his fellow human beings, civilians in particular. But Ferrazza is desperate to recruit him because he is a cableway mechanic who has unfettered access to the engine room. The colonel entices him with his wife. Prodded by her husband the reluctant Emilia unhappily plays her part by becoming Caparrotti’s lover.

But things begin to fall apart: Caparrotti balks and now also demands significant sums of cash and when the colonel murders a colonial civil servant who has somehow learned of the plot he orders Caparrotti to help him dispose of the body. With the driver more reluctant than ever, and with the deadline drawing nearer, the colonel will do anything to ensure the sabotage is carried out.

Unexpectedly, Gyles Aiscroft, a Rome-based British freelance foreign correspondent, and an old family friend of Emilia’s parents arrives in Asmara. Her father, Edmund Playfair, the senior intelligence officer at the British embassy in Rome, has asked Aiscroft to look in on her. An older man she finds herself drawn to him and confides her plight to him. They embark on a brief, intense affair. But what she doesn’t count on is his falling in love with her and wanting to whisk her off to Capri.

Determined to leave Africa with his mission complete, and with the deadline almost upon him, Ferrazza instructs the resigned and fearful Caparrotti how to go about setting the dynamite charges.

And as the tick-tock of the clock counts down the final hours the colonel belatedly begins to grasp that in ‘Little Rome’ nothing is what it seems, no one can be trusted and, when serving Mussolini, failure will never be condoned.

 1943— Obersturmbannführer Lt. Colonel Carl von Glasow and his fellow battle-weary officers of Rommel’s 15th Panzer Division, Afrika Corps, have endured the humiliation of surrendering to the Allies in Tunisia. Resigned to riding out the war in a North African prisoner of war camp they are surprised to learn they are being shipped instead to a U.S. Army POW camp in America. Nothing prepares them for the vivid contrast between the burning sands of the Tunisian desert and the murderous tank wars they waged there and the small, peaceful and idyllic Georgia coastal island town of Sorrel Island.

During the summer the population swells as mainlanders from nearby Savannah alight from the daily Central of Georgia trains or drive over the causeway in their Ford Deluxe Fordors and Chrysler 66s. Vacationers flock to the pristine beaches, revel in the cool saltwater breezes, and enjoy the amusement pier with its Ferris wheel and the music pavilion that host traveling big band tours.
Referred to as the “Nazi camp” by the locals, and Nazilager by the inmates who still proudly wear their sand-colored desert fighting uniforms their presence incites disturbing emotions. The coastal islanders are nervous about sharing their idyllic community with prisoners of war. Though they couldn’t feel further away from the ravages of the far away war they are not immune from it. The persistent chatter on the beaches and in the hotels and rooming houses is now the likelihood of a prisoner escape.

When on the first day a German escapee is shot in broad daylight a groundswell of opposition and fear from vacationers and year-around residents erupts. Young first-term town council president and mayor Connie Hopkins does her best to assuage their fears all the while confronting her own feelings when Major Bill Ferguson, the camp’s assistant commandant, launches a campaign to seduce her.

Meanwhile behind the fences and guard towers, and inside their wooden barracks and mess halls, several renegade Nazi officers embark on a plan to escape to neutral Argentina. And when Lt. Colonel von Glasow learns of the plan his mettle is tested as he makes the most fateful decision of his life.
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