Monday, 24 August 2015

The Man from Berlin by Luke McCallin

review by Maryom

Sarajevo, 1943; the murder of young journalist/filmmaker Marija Vukic would probably have been left to the local police if it weren't for the presence of another dead body at the scene - that of a German officer. As it is, Captain Gregor Reinhardt, an ex-policeman now working for Abwehr, German military intelligence, finds himself involved in, and intrigued by, the case. The Yugoslavian investigation seems to be aimed at getting a quick result, not necessarily accurate, and preferably one that will point the finger at the anti-German Partisan movement, but Reinhardt is not at all convinced and persists in digging deeper, in the process annoying both local police and German officials.

The second book in this series is out on Thursday but I thought I'd be better to start at the beginning, and I'm glad I did as I think more of Reinhardt's background will have been explored here. A hero of the first world war, Reinhardt's life since then has not been so happy, his wife has died, he's estranged from his Nazi-indoctrinated son, and he feels his conduct in this second war has been not entirely 'becoming'; he's lost his faith in the people running the country and in the war itself. In this way, Reinhardt is set up as that fairly familiar honest detective, happy to antagonise his superiors, not prepared to go along with orders that don't make sense to him, and ready to take extra risks if necessary to do 'right'. But instead of being part of a modern metropolitan police force, Reinhardt is part of army intelligence in German-occupied Yugoslavia - a country that's a melting pot for many different races and religions, in which it's difficult to keep track of which groups are on the same side. Against this backdrop, almost any murder is bound to have political and military implications, and Reinhardt is happy to take his time, ask his awkward questions and slowly, surely, get to the bottom of the things.
I really enjoyed this mix of whodunnit and historical novel. The time and place are vividly brought to life; the characters, despite a certain superficial similarity with so many from old war movies, well defined and credible; and the plot twists and turns in more ways than you might expect.  I'm certainly looking forward to Reinhardt's further adventures in The Pale House!

Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - No Exit Press
Genre - Adult historical crime whodunnit World War 2

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