Book Review: The Letter Writer

Woodrow Cain, a 34-year-old policeman with a recent tragedy in his past, is newly transplanted from North Carolina to New York City in 1942.

Danziger is a multilingual man of indeterminate age and a shady past who writes letters for the illiterate, keeping his non-English-speaking clients in touch with their European relatives–or trying to, in a time when millions of Europeans disappeared into Hitler’s death camps.

The two men form an alliance with the goal of … well, I just read the book and I’m not quite sure what their goal was. It had to do with a wartime partnership between the mafia and the US government based on real historical events. It had Cain running headlong into dicey situations, trying to find out who murdered a trio of recent immigrants from Germany. And it had Danziger’s past rearing its ugly but useful head. It had a love interest for Cain who disappears for a third of the book, Cain’s young daughter coming to live with him and seemingly getting kidnapped, and interference from Cain’s corrupt father-in-law.

It’s not that story threads aren’t resolved, it’s more that they don’t braid into a satisfying whole. This means that despite a great beginning and a great ending, and despite loving the historical lens on New York City, I thought about quitting in the middle more than once.

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