Book Review: Contra-ODESSA

This review was originally published by Pages and Patches.

Contra-ODESSA – Alex Markman

Author: Alex Markman
Publisher: Astroid Publishing
I often wonder where I would fit in on a team of KGB spies. Possibly I have too much free time.
Or I’m prepared for a Soviet re-emergence. And while everyone else is being crushed under the red hammer of Marxist repression, I, in my neurotic cowardice, fueled by years of escapism via GoldenEye and the avoidance of team sports, will have my papers in line and my talents ready to offer to the winning side. I hope my comrades have room for someone who can quote every Simpsons episode from 1998 and back. That’s essentially my only hope.
The spies in Alex Markman’s Contra-ODESSA are much better suited for intrigue than me. Markman draws from the history following WWII and the emerging cold war beginning in the 1960s. Contra-ODESSA presents the cold war in a hot place: Latin America. The Contra part of the title means counter and the acronym ODESSA, as explained in the prologue, comes from German: Organization Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehorigen, which means, Organization of the former SS members.
KGB operatives are deployed in the southern hemisphere to promote growing communist sentiments and radical groups. The KGB has a clandestine team, like every good spy network, that consists of a seductress/poisons expert, a sadist thug, and the conflicted moralist, Robert. Robert is not his real name – his identity is a KGB fabrication along with the pre-meditated history he relays to those who ask.
Robert and co.’s mission is to hunt former S.S. men living in South America and force them to donate their illegal war spoils stashed in Swiss bank accounts. The money is meant to go to the leftist movement. The KGB persuades S.S. members through deception and torture, which conflicts with Robert’s nature. Robert is sympathetic rookie; his conflicted personality contrasts well with the grim scenes in Contra-ODESSA.
Working against the KGB are the Americans, headed by Glenn, a kind of CIA mercenary. The CIA task Glenn to suppress the communist guerrillas militarizing in South America. And, just as Robert must commit moral errors, duty requires Glenn to play deceiver. Scenes shift from Robert’s and Glenn’s perspectives. This dichotomy muddles any sense of good and evil as both sides commit atrocities.
Which is a lot of fun to watch.
Oh, and there’s plenty of sex in Contra-ODESSA. In between covert missions, Robert and Glenn make time to sample Southern amenities. Robert prefers the company of an older, German woman, Bertha, and Glenn the younger, leftist radical, Lollita. Robert and Glenn’s desires are duel – lust and their clashing missions force them to lie (pun!) with these women in order to delve deeper into their respective communities.
Markmen’s style leaves room for easy enjoyment in between history lessons and conspiracies. There’s a little philosophizing on the big issues of war and morality. When voiced, these diatribes act as exclamation points after all the backroom tortures, gun fights, and car chases. And sex.
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