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Literature / Black Cross

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It's January of 1944. The British have discovered that the Nazis have developed a new chemical weapon: Sarin, a chemical weapon that, unlike mustard and phosgene gas used in World War I before, can't be blocked by a mere gas mask — it's absorbed through the skin. Knowing that this could seriously derail the allies' plans for the invasion of Normandy, they send in a two-man infiltration team consisting of Mark McConnell, an American M.D. and chemical warfare researcher working for the British at Oxford, and Jonas Stern, a German-born Jew and member of the Palestinian terrorist organization Haganah.

A separate story thread takes place in the Totenhausen concentration camp, where the Nazis' experiments with sarin and other deadly gases are taking place.

The whole novel is framed as a story being told by a Rabbi who had known of Mark McConnell's actions to McConnell's son, shortly after his funeral and burial.

The novel was written in 1995 by Greg Iles.

Tropes present in Black Cross:

  • Badass Israeli: The state of Israel didn't exist at this point, but Jonas Stern qualifies.
  • Book Ends: The novel begins and ends with a Rabbi friend of McConnell] telling the story to his son.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The toggle ropes. Colin Munro didn't make it, but his toggle rope prevented the mission from being a total wash.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Nazi gases were classified by a colored cross on the container: Green cross for suffocating gases (chlorine, phosgene), White cross for irritants tear gas), Yellow cross for blistering agents (mustard gas), Blue cross for gases that blocked molecular respiration (cyanide, carbon monoxide). After the development of tabun, sarin, and soman gases, they had to add a new category: black cross, for nerve agents.
  • Sadistic Choice: Which of Rachel Jansen's children will she save? Hannah.
  • Stupid Nerve Gas Hitler
  • Title Drop: Both the new category for the new gases, and the name of the mission McConnell and Stern undertake.
  • Training from Hell: At Achnacarry Castle.
  • Trust Password: To prove he's Jewish, the inmates at Totenhausen ask Jonas Stern to name the Four Questions. Not convinced, one inmate sticks her hand down his pants to see if he's circumcised.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jonas Stern initially suggests that the concentration camps be bombed while the prisoners are still in them.