A couple of assassins, one highly trained but rusty, the other in over her head, are the heroes of two new thrillers featuring targets so appalling that our sympathy goes straight to their would-be killers. These are not alternate histories where the outcomes change—the broad outline for each is factual, so we know right from the outset that neither will be successful. The question is whether or not they’ll survive their missions.
Cara Black’s Three Hours in Paris zeroes in on June 23, 1940, the day when Kate Rees, an expert American markswoman who’s been recruited by the British secret service, is supposed to pick off the Führer on the steps of Sacré-Coeur. (The three hours referred to in the title reflect the duration of Hitler’s actual, single visit to Paris.) Rees is powerfully motivated by the recent deaths of her Welsh husband and infant daughter in a Luftwaffe bombing. Blinded by grief and bent on revenge, she doesn’t twig to the dubiousness of the British secret service using an Oregon farm girl with only a few days’ spy training to parachute into France and pull off an assassination of this magnitude. She realizes too late that she might have been set up, and when her attempt fails, she embarks on a race for her life through newly occupied Paris with a dogged German detective just steps behind her.