Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou by Steven Burgauer is a brilliant historical fiction about, well – Nazis trying to sabotage Allied manufacturing capabilities of the Higgins Boat mostly in and around Louisiana. Or, it could be that the Allies are the saboteurs and the Nazi’s plan is what is being disrupted. Either way, the title fits and while it is a bit on-the-nose, what you find between the covers is a thoroughly-researched, incredibly detailed story of some of the unsung heroes of WWII. I say “unsung” because I, myself, had never heard of many of the real people, technologies and events that are featured in this book. Someone who has thoroughly researched the second World War would probably have to do a lot less Googling than I had to, but I was pleased to find that all of the author’s real facts were accurate. More importantly, I found very few real historical facts that were unnecessary. Sometimes, in historical fiction, you get two books: a fiction story and then a bunch of un-related data about the real-world events that were simultaneously taking place. This doesn’t happen here, and the historical information the author provides us not only augments the story he’s telling, but is almost-certainly going to be interesting data that you haven’t heard before. If anything, this should be a sign to those who don’t normally go in for historical fiction that this book can be enjoyed by anyone. In this respect it’s a bit like the film Saving Private Ryan, a fictional interpretation of a historical event that is written in a way that can be appreciated by even those who might not normally like war stories. That film and this book have other things in common as well, which I will get to shortly.
This is a book with many well-developed characters and branching storylines, mostly centered around a dead Nazi found in New Orleans, the attempts by the Nazis to get back information he was carrying and the Allied attempts to stop the Germans from destroying the factory which produced the Higgins Boats – the Allied craft that Dwight D. Eisenhower credited with being crucial to Allied victory on the European Western Front, North Africa and Italy. Most people have probably seen a Higgins Boat before, even if they didn’t know what it was called, as they were featured in the film Saving Private Ryan as the crafts the soldiers disembark from during the Normandy Beach sequence, just as they did during the actual storming. While that is presented as the main plot of the novel, this a book with a number of intricate subplots that intersect at times and diverge completely in others. It’s a tough balancing act, but the author pulls it off with aplomb. Without giving away too much, I can assure readers that the surprise cameos from history, the romance, the intrigue and the (at times) horrifically-detailed events of the story will be enough to keep you reading, likely at the edge of your seat, from the first page to the last.
If there’s one small thing to nitpick about the book, it would have to be the title. While “Nazi Saboteurs On The Bayou” is a one-hundred percent accurate depiction of what the book is about for the reader regardless of which way you interpret it, it would be hard to argue that it doesn’t sound like a Doc Savage pulp subtitle or the name of a B-movie from the fifties. Since the book is a thoroughly-researched and intricate fiction with innumerable factual, historical elements, I can’t help but wonder if the title would be enough to turn off the very target audience that this book is looking to attract. While I think the book would absolutely be better served by a different title, this is a very minor grievance I have with an otherwise beautifully-crafted book and I don’t think it warrants the deduction of even half of a star. 5 Stars.