Erik Larson is the master of the researched narrative. He can take on the most intricate historical event and craft a compelling book out of it, often following the grisly path of a serial killer or some cataclysmic natural disaster. In his latest book, "In the Garden of Beasts", he has turned his attention to the beginnings of World War II and the rise of the Nazis in Germany.
Larson uses memoirs, personal correspondence, official records, newspaper articles and journal entries to piece together the story of William Edward Dodd, U.S. ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937, and his daughter, Martha. Although closely related, the two have dissimilar views about the changes happening in Germany but realize that Adolf Hitler's leadership will rip apart the world.
Larson's greatest ability is to take readers back to these turbulent times possessing the clear knowledge of what is to come. He makes it possible to see where diplomacy could have changed the future and how America failed to see what was coming. Through the eyes of the Doddses, he allows readers to understand how these mistakes were so easily made.
-- Review by Gena Fisher, Belt Branch reference assistant