For six months in 1942, Stalingrad is the center of a titanic struggle between the Russian and German armies—the bloodiest campaign in mankind's long history of warfare. The outcome is pivotal. If Hitler's forces are not stopped, Russia will fall. And with it, the world....
German soldiers call the battle Rattenkrieg, War of the Rats. The combat is horrific, as soldiers die in the smoking cellars and trenches of a ruined city. Through this twisted carnage stalk two men—one Russian, one German—each the top sniper in his respective army. These two marksmen are equally matched in both skill and tenacity. Each man has his own mission: to find his counterpart—and kill him.
But an American woman trapped in Russia complicates this extraordinary duel. Joining the Russian sniper's cadre, she soon becomes one of his most talented assassins—and perhaps his greatest weakness. Based on a true story, this is the harrowing tale of two adversaries enmeshed in their own private war—and whose fortunes will help decide the fate of the world.
Set in the rubble of Stalingrad during WWII, Robbins's second novel hinges on a dramatic mano a mano confrontation between a Russian sniper and his German counterpart during a pivotal stretch of the historic 1942 siege. Vasily Zaitsev is "The Hare," a hunter from the Ural Mountains with deadly skills as a chief master sergeant in the Red Army. His proficiency as a marksman attracts considerable attention from both sides, starting when his Russian bosses put him in charge of a "sniper school" to supplement the front-line soldiers. Zaitsev and his students have so much success against the Nazis that the Germans deploy a master sniper of their own, SS Colonel Heinz Thorvald (aka "The Headmaster"), to assassinate Zaitsev and turn the tide in the battle for Stalingrad. The beleaguered city itself becomes a character in the struggle as Zaitsev and Thorvald attempt to outmaneuver one another. Stalingrad also harbors a pair of lovers, as Zaitsev conducts a passionate affair with fellow sniper Tania Chernova, the headstrong daughter of New York-dwelling Russian immigrants. Tania joins the fight for Russia after she travels to Minsk in hopes of rescuing her grandparents, only to watch them die at the hands of the Germans. Robbins does a brilliant job of dissecting the unique mindset and steely emotions that snipers must possess and painting the battle scenes, but none of the primary characters escapes war novel clich s. The final confrontation takes a while to play out, but once Robbins (Souls to Keep) gets to the heart of the matter, he presents a riveting account of a battle within a battle, and the sniper motif proves an ideal vehicle to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both sides.