In his award-winning first novel, All Cry Chaos, Leonard Rosen introduced Henri Poincaré, a married, middle-aged Interpol officer with grown children. The Tenth Witness is a prequel. Henri is a young, successful engineer. On a rare free day, he goes on a guided walk across the mud flats of the Wadden Sea, north of the Netherlands. That adventure will change his life in ways he could never imagine.
The mud flats tour guide is Liesel Kraus, an enchanting German woman who draws Henri into her family of wealthy steel magnates. Kraus Steel no longer produces the metal alloy, but engages in salvage operations such as the stripping of metal from beached oil tankers, doing business in third world countries, utilizing cheap labor, and treating their workers as little more than slaves. Henri becomes aware of the questionable nature of these ventures early on, but as his feelings for Liesel grow and the opportunities to line his own pockets increase, he manages to put his concerns aside. He even accepts a job overseeing a Kraus research project.
It is on his first day as a consultant to Kraus Steel that Henri reads a biography of the now deceased family patriarch, Otto Kraus. It includes an affidavit signed by ten witnesses, who confirm that Otto, who had been a member of the Nazi party, was not a war criminal, but actually “a good and honorable man, caught up in evil times.” Henri is shocked when he reads the name of the last witness, Jacob Zeligman, a Holocaust survivor who had attended the recent funeral of Isaac Kahane, a family friend who had been like a grandfather to Henri. He finds himself compelled to look into the wartime history of the Kraus steel factory and the veracity of the aforementioned affidavit.
Henri’s activities now bring him to the attention of Interpol officer Serge Laurent, who is investigating Kraus Steel and views Henri as a potential informant. Torn between Liesel, the Interpol case against her family, and their connection to the wartime horrors experienced by his beloved Isaac Kahane, Henri ends up placing both his life and perhaps his very soul in great danger.
Leonard Rosen is a gifted writer and The Tenth Witness is just as deserving of awards as was All Cry Chaos. I would recommend that you read them both.