“Munich” by Robert Harris, narrated by David Rintoul, Random House Audio, 9 hours, 38 minutes
Actor David Rintoul, the narrator of Robert Harris’ thriller, “Munich,” summons a grumbling chorus of voices as the diplomatic maneuvers to prevent World War II unfurl. Not only must Rintoul manage the dry-leaves delivery of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the beer-hall harshness of Adolf Hitler, he has all the politicians and civil servants at the hearts of the British and German governments to enliven. Rintoul keeps a taut rein on the growing tension as a pair of young men — one German, one English — try to change the course of history.
The story of Chamberlain’s effort to forestall war is so well-worn, it’s lost its edges for many, but Harris’ story snaps the prime minister’s motivations into place. Chamberlain is a wily negotiator, working hard to outflank Hitler. If words could bind a criminal, Chamberlain’s desperate machinations would have changed history. But the prime minister disregarded Hitler’s essence; Paul von Hartmann, temporarily assigned to Hitler’s staff, has information he hopes will change Chamberlain’s course. His only hope of passing it along is a former Oxford friend, Hugh Legat, a low-ranking member of Chamberlain’s staff. Harris, who wrote “Fatherland” and the Cicero Trilogy, is a master of layering detail for tightly plotted, immersive fiction. His two young schemers are positioned to provide an intimate view of the political and defense calculations on both sides of the channel, while on the streets of London, workers scurry with sandbags and shovels to prepare for the worst — the only efforts that, in the end, really mattered.
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