In 1942 Enrico Fermi and a team of scientists were working on a top secret project called the Manhattan Project.  This was the research on developing the atomic bomb done at Stagg Field, the University of Chicago football stadium.  The Accidental Agent by Andrew Rosenheim tells the story of a fictional FBI agent who is asked to determine whether or not a Nazi has managed to infiltrate the research group.  Many of the scientists in the group were European immigrants and some of their credentials had been difficult to verify.  Is it possible that one of them had been recruited as a spy?  Jimmy Nessheim had asked for an extended leave from the FBI to attend law school at the University of Chicago.  Since he is in the right place and has the perfect cover story, he is asked by his superiors to resume his Special Agent status to observe the scientists’ work.  The novel is filled with shadowy characters, including two ex-girlfriends and thugs from his past.  As Jimmy tries to understand just how far the Manhattan Project is progressing and if all the scientists involved are who they say they are, all sorts of complications emerge.  The book has interesting and understandable details about the nuclear experiment.  It also has the noir feel of 1940’s spycraft.

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The House of Dreams by Kate Lord Brown is a fictionalized account of Air-Bel, a villa in Marseilles, France.  During the early part of WWII, the American Relief Center worked to relocate refugees out of Vichy controlled Marseilles to protect them from Nazi arrest.  These people were usually on a list as a “degenerate” artist or someone who had been politically critical of Nazism.  Varian Fry was the American journalist who ran the organization that got so many people to safety.  The fictional character which the novel focuses on is the renowned artist Gabriel Lambert.  He had been provided with an escape route to the US.  He is now in his nineties and has become a recluse.  Sophie Cass is a New York City journalist who is hoping for an exclusive, revealing interview about the WWII era relationship which he had with her great aunt.  Flashbacks tell the story of the real Varian Fry’s heroic efforts and reveal a very complex secret that the fictional artist Lambert had kept for all his life.