In 1916, while the Allied and Central forces waged war in Europe, Americans watched from afar, unthreatened by the danger overseas. That all changed on a warm summer evening in late July, when a spit of land in New York Harbor called Black Tom Island exploded, pelting the Statue of Liberty with shrapnel, devastating much of lower Manhattan, and casting a fiery orange glow over New York City.
The attack, so massive that people as far away as Maryland felt the ground shake, had been shockingly easy. America was riddled with networks of German saboteurs, hiding in full daylight. Black Tom was only one part of their plans: secret anthrax facilities were situated just 10 miles from the White House; bombs were planted on ships, in buildings and mailed in boxes to the country’s civic and business leaders; an underground syndicate helped potential terrorists obtain fake IDs, housing and money. Americans, feeling buffered by miles of ocean and burgeoning prosperity, had ignored the mounting threat. President Wilson himself knew an attack of this magnitude was possible, and yet nothing had been done to stop it—or prosecute those responsible.
But if the White House or the German government thought Black Tom would be easily forgotten, they were wrong. Three American lawyers —John McCloy, Amos Peaslee, and Harold Martin— made it their mission to solve the Black Tom mystery. Their hunt for justice would take them undercover to Europe; deep into the shadowy world of secret agents and double-cross; through the halls of Washington and the capitals of Europe. It would challenge their beliefs in right and wrong, and strain their personal lives. And they would discover a sinister plot so vast it could hardly have been imagined—a conspiracy that stretched from downtown Manhattan to South America to the heart of Berlin.
With the pace of a legal thriller and the detail of the richest history, The Detonators is the first full accounting of a crime and a cover up that resonates strongly in a post-9/11 America.