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The Torqued Man: A Novel (Paperback)
“A damn good read.”—Alan Furst
A brilliant debut novel, at once teasing literary thriller and a darkly comic blend of history and invention, The Torqued Man is set in wartime Berlin and propelled by two very different but equally mesmerizing voices: a German spy handler and his Irish secret agent, neither of whom are quite what they seem.
Berlin—September, 1945. Two manuscripts are found in rubble, each one narrating conflicting versions of the life of an Irish spy during the war.
One of them is the journal of a German military intelligence officer and an anti-Nazi cowed into silence named Adrian de Groot, charting his relationship with his agent, friend, and sometimes lover, an Irishman named Frank Pike. In De Groot’s narrative, Pike is a charismatic IRA fighter sprung from prison in Spain to assist with the planned German invasion of Britain, but who never gets the chance to consummate his deal with the devil.
Meanwhile, the other manuscript gives a very different account of the Irishman’s doings in the Reich. Assuming the alter ego of the Celtic hero Finn McCool, Pike appears here as the ultimate Allied saboteur. His mission: an assassination campaign of high-ranking Nazi doctors, culminating in the killing of Hitler’s personal physician.
The two manuscripts spiral around each other, leaving only the reader to know the full truth of Pike and De Groot’s relationship, their ultimate loyalties, and their efforts to resist the fascist reality in which they are caught.
Peter Mann has a PhD in Modern European history and is a past recipient of the Whiting Fellowship. He teaches history and literature at Stanford and the University of San Francisco. He is also a graphic artist and cartoonist. This is his first novel.
“I loved The Torqued Man, its riotous irreverence, its coiled suspense. It’s a brilliant, surprising novel, Don Quixote by way of le Carré.” — Jess Walter, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins and The Cold Millions
"Writing with intelligence, style, and wit, Peter Mann has created two unforgettable characters and braided them together in a thrilling World War II story unlike any other." — David Ebershoff, New York Times bestselling author of The 19th Wife and The Danish Girl
“Peter Mann’s The Torqued Man is a damn good read.” — Alan Furst
“Peter Mann, creator of 'The Quixote Syndrome,' a comic dedicated to 'history, literature, and the absurd,' brilliantly combines all three subjects in this debut novel about two men during World War II, one a German military intelligence officer and the other an Irish spy who fancies himself a modern-day Celtic legend. Each recounts the same events in his own manuscript, leaving the reader to deduce what’s real. Mann’s sometimes graphic, sometimes heartbreaking, always entertaining thriller draws parallels to similar forces pulling against each other in modern life.” — Washington Post
“‘Vexing’ doesn’t begin to describe the intricate maneuverings of the two narrators in Peter Mann’s quick-witted World War II caper. But ‘compelling’ certainly does.” — New York Times Book Review
“Highly entertaining. . . . The two stories contained within . . . fit together like the teeth of a zipper, one atop the other, until the whole thing is satisfyingly pulled into place.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“A rollicking spy novel full of Nabokovian tricks, The Torqued Man is wildly funny and tremendously sad. In its pages, Europe under the shadow of the Third Reich and RAF bombings comes alive again; this is a brilliant debut.” — Louisa Hall, author of Trinity
“Mann’s brisk and well-constructed plot is enhanced by equally impressive prose…A wily spy novel with a human touch.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Peter Mann makes two (at first) seemingly outlandish characters and plotlines work together through the continuous control which he exerts over his tone. The result is a strange, sinisterly funny meditation on that greatest of all imponderables: the Second World War.” — Lawrence Osborne, author of The Forgiven and The Glass Kingdom
“[Mann’s] writing is cunning and effortless. As [his] two story streams eventually converge, satisfaction comes courtesy of sophistication delivered without pretense by a marvelous storyteller.” — East Bay Express
"This fiendishly clever, elegant debut novel . . . combines a clear-eyed vision of a not-so-distant period of history with canny spy-world touches and astute elements of farcical humor." — Boston Globe
"[A] distinctive, hard-to-categorize debut . . . This book is a wildly entertaining spy thriller based on a true story." — Minneapolis Star Tribune
"As the chapters alternate between the manuscripts, two irreconcilable portraits of Pike emerge, while de Groot's love for the Irishman gradually emboldens him." — New Yorker
"Mann proves adept at picking up on the emotional kernels at the heart of history." — Publishers Weekly
"The story is fascinating, and well-written characters add to the complexity." — Library Journal