Cover image for The advocate : [a novel of World War II]
The advocate : [a novel of World War II]
Mesce, Bill Jr.
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Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
306 pages : map ; 24 cm
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Subtitle from cover.
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A novel that seamlessly blends military intrigue, relentless suspense, and a baffling mystery, The Advocate is a harrowing account by two master storytellers who dare to imagine what can really happen in the fire of war, where good and evil aren't always what they seem. Here one man must pierce the military's impenetrable wall of silence to prove that even in the midst of a world war, murder is still a crime.

The Advocate

On a chalky bluff overlooking the windswept English Channel, an old man watches a horrifying spectacle unfold. Within a matter of seconds, one American P-47 Thunderbolt fires on another, mercilessly driving the crippled plane into the sea. And the old man, his cottage strafed, barely escapes with his life.  The year is 1943: The Russians have defeated Hitler at Stalingrad. North Africa has fallen to the Allies. And the Americans, after two disastrous years, are winning the war in the Pacific. Now, in England, American fliers wage a bitter air war against the Luftwaffe. But what really happened in the skies above the Channel is something no one--least of all the military--is prepared to have revealed.
To find out the truth, the Judge Advocate's office calls on a brilliant, cynical, homesick lawyer. The last thing Harry Voss wanted was a case that had every indication of becoming a political powder keg. But Harry, a man of honor, cannot turn his back on the possibility that the incident over the Channel may not have been an accident--but an act of cold-blooded murder.  Harry has no idea what he is getting into. For his investigation will lead through a labyrinth of military politics, where ambitious, powerful men guard their turf and soldiers guard their secrets with an unbreakable code of silence. For Harry, the case becomes his own personal war, as he uncovers a series of murderous events that detonate up the chain of command. He only wants justice for a crime. And he is willing to risk his own career and life to get it, as he begins a dangerous journey into the dark heart of war. It is here that Harry Voss will dare to enter a world where heroes are killers, wrong becomes right, and even angels must dip their wings into the fire of hell itself

Author Notes

Bill Mesce Jr., lives in New Jersey.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The year is 1943, and the U.S. Army Air Force is operating out of England. Three American P-47 Thunderbolts appear off the British coast, presumably on their way home from a raid; suddenly, two of the Yanks shoot down the third and attack the farmhouse of a civilian spotter, almost killing him and his wife. The two planes then return to base and land, as if nothing had happened. At that point, the reader is hooked; and the Judge Advocate General's staff, in the person of Major Harry Voss, is as bewildered as the poor farmer whose home was destroyed. As Voss gets closer and closer to an explanation of what happened and why, he realizes that the top brass is less interested in facts than in clean and simple closure. This is an outstanding thriller, well constructed and powerfully written. --Budd Arthur

Publisher's Weekly Review

Virtually certain to be one of the year's big hits (and a strong movie candidate), this beautifully crafted WWII thriller starts with a bang and rarely falters on its path toward gloomy enlightenment about the moral quagmires of war. An American pilot shoots down one of his own men over the Channel Islands in 1943, then seemingly deliberately blasts two civilian witnesses on the ground. Mesce (who makes his writing debut) and Szilagyi (whose novel Photographing Fairies became a British film) delineate the fine line between military strategy and murder as the investigation into the pilot's actions quickly turns into the coverup of a much larger atrocity. At the heart of this investigation is middle-aged American lawyer Maj. Harry Voss, who joined the judge advocate general's office at the urging of his much flashier and more political best friend, Col. Joe Ryan. Now Ryan puts Harry in charge of the apparently slam-dunk case against Maj. Al Markham, who admits to shooting down a frightened and disaffected junior officer in a moment of severe stress. But something about the case doesn't sit right with Voss: he and his two investigators (a hotheaded young lieutenant and a reticent captain, both instantly credible) dig deeper and uncover a tragic military strike that the entire Allied Command is intent on keeping quiet. The authors fill their story with authentic period detail, making the much-traveled landscape of wartime England leap to fresh life, and all their charactersDespecially the American and British brassDare equally interesting. Even the somewhat mysterious narrator, a one-legged Scottish journalist who remains nameless through most of the book, turns out to be the perfect person to put together all the pieces of this exciting, original and finally heartbreaking story. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As evidenced by John Katzenbach!s Hart!s War (LJ 12/98), the popularity of World War II in fiction is making another comeback in the legal thriller genre. This novel, set in 1943, is more concerned with what happened during a bombing run than who did what to whom. When a local spotter of aircraft along the English Coast sees two American fighters gun down one of their own, then turn their guns on the English farm inhabitants, the military quickly shuts down the site and calls in the office of the Judge Advocate General. Maj. Harry Voss is assigned the case, even though he has no experience as a criminal prosecutor. Voss, under the gun to get quick results and realizing that the investigation is more complex than he ever dreamed possible, doggedly persists to the startling climax. Mesce (Four Day Shoot) and Szilagyi (Photographing Fairies) certainly did extensive research in order to capture the zeitgeist of war in England. The story ends quietly with the players dispersed throughout the world, but the reader is left with a sense of the reality of war and how ideals can go wrong enough to make a proud moment in time a double-edged sword. Give this one an A+ and buy it for all fiction collections where readers want something more substantial than just a good tale."Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights$University Heights. P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



THE OLD MAN'S RITUAL WAS UNCHANGING. Each morning he brewed his tea from a tin of faded leaves and took a biscuit, fresh-cooked the night before but now crusty, from the bun warmer on the stove. He sat hunched over his tea and biscuit, at the scuffed table he'd built himself back in the days when the lumber he'd cut had seemed as light and limber in his hands as child's clay. The mutt sat eager and panting at his feet in his own morning canon, envious eyes glued to the food in the old man's hand. When there was but one bite left to the biscuit, the old man paused to study the morsel reflectively. This was the dog's cue to stand, wagging his tail frantically, bright eyes locked on the treat. The old man looked from the dog to the biscuit and back to the dog, as if weighing some great decision. Then, he leaned over, he and his chair creaking together, and held the biscuit over the dog's head. The old man raised one finger, and the dog, knowing his part well, forced himself to sit and be still. They held this frieze until the old man felt the animal had earned his reward. "Oop wi' ye," the old man commanded, and the dog launched himself onto his hind legs, balancing in a waltzing step until the man dropped the piece of biscuit into the widespread jaws. When the biscuit was gone, the dog looked up at the old man, tail wagging, and smiled with a mouth full of yellow teeth. "You are the spoil'dest beast!" the old man said, and smiled back with teeth just as yellow. He ruffled the dog's limp ears, then massaged the top of the animal's head with his horny knuckles. The old man finished his tea and brushed the crumbs from the table. He left the chipped teacup where it sat. By the time the woman awoke, the leaves would be dry and could be returned to their tin. He wiped his hands on his ragged jersey and poked his head through the curtained doorway of the bedroom.The cross mounted on the far wall stood guard over the woman snuggled in the center of the down-filled bed. It looked like a shadow in the gray light from the window facing the Channel. The stone walls of the cottage were cool, gathering in the moisture of the clammy morning. A breeze off the sea fluttered the thin curtains. While the dog watched patiently from the doorway, the old man tiptoed clumsily to the window. He tried to close it, but the sash was swollen with the damp and it resisted and groaned. He stopped, not wanting to wake the woman, and pulled the curtains closed. He reached for a hand-made quilt atop the neat pile of bedclothes at the foot of the bed and gently drew it across her shoulders. He cut some cheese from the brick in the larder, took another biscuit from the warmer, and wrapped both in a damp cloth before tucking them into his haversack along with a small jug of water. He took his crook from where it rested against the wall, and his cap from the hook by the door. He was halfway out the door before he remembered his binoculars on the wireless table. Try as she might with her hand-tatted doilies, vases of marigolds, the menagerie of ceramic animals, the woman had been unable to soften the bleak presumptuousness of the transmitter, or the grim black ranks of aircraft silhouettes on the recognition chart tacked to the wall, lined up like cemetery crosses. He slung the glasses round his neck, blew out the lantern hanging over the table, and went outside. The dog spurted past him in the doorway, trotting to the edge of the cliffs where he paced back and forth near the steep drop. He left his urinary mark of proprietorship on the knots of weeds and shrubs growing twisted in the Channel winds. The gulls circling off the chalk bluffs ignored his perfunctory barks and continued with their breakfast, dropping mussels on the boulders strewn along the pebble beach, then diving to pick at the meat amid the shattered shells. Bored with the dawn and the birds and the surf, the dog trotted off to find the old man by the chicken coop behind the cottage. "Damn . . ." The hens were out, bucbucbucing in a nagging cluster. A gap had been clawed between two of the floorboards. Bloodied feathers hung on the splintered edges and trailed along the shallow fox tracks that vanished into the thick pasture grass. The old man turned an angry, disgusted look on the dog. "Where the bloody 'ell were you?" The dog dodged the old man's attempt to cuff him. He trotted off to a safe distance, then followed the old man toward the tool shanty, his head bowed low and sheepish. "Better be sorry," the old man grumbled. "Be bleedin' 'shamed o' yerself. That's yer modrern dog for ya. Not like inna olden times. Those were real dogs, dogs a man could count on!" The old man laid out a roll of rusting chicken wire, frowning when he saw the scant few feet left. He gauged by eye how much he'd need and cut no more than that. These were not days that tolerated waste or excess. "In olden times, a man and his dog went out side by side. Out inna wars together, side by side. Tough 'ey was. Slayin' infidels." The old man went back to the coop. He nudged the hens out of the way with his boot and started tacking the patch of wire over the hole. "Not like 'is easy farm work yer modrern dog's got.Yuh, slay a few infidels 'n' yer olden dog wouldna bother wi' no li'l ol' fox. 'Neath 'im it was. Not like yer modrern dog, lays about all day, lettin' the sheep stray halfways to London, does."The old man turned sharply to the dog. "Buys 'em a rail ticket almost is what 'e does. Yup, that's yer modrern dog. 'N' 'en 'e wants yer biscuit, too, don't 'e?" The dog grinned in dumb apology. The old man leaned over, nose to nose with the dog, and wagged a reprimanding finger. "Old age don't let you out of nothin', ya know." The dog whipped his tongue out; it caught the old man in the eye. Excerpted from The Advocate: A Novel of World War II by Bill Mesce, Steven G. Szilagyi All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.