Tuesday, 17 November 2015
The Pale House by Luke McCallin
review by Maryom
In March 1945 Captain Gregor Reinhardt finds himself back in Sarajevo after a two year gap. He's got a new 'job', having been moved to the Feldjaegerkorps elite branch of military police, but still has his old conflict between duty to Germany and determination to do right. He's no happier with the attitudes of high-up Nazis running the country and the war, but is increasingly frustrated that there doesn't seem to be anything he can do about it.
Sarajevo is in complete turmoil. Russian and Partisan troops are advancing on the city, refugees fleeing out of the path of the fighting, the German forces are moving out, and their local supporters the Ustase feel free to do whatever they wish. In this chaos, who's going to notice a few extra dead bodies? Well, Reinhardt does. First, in the hills surrounding Sarajevo, he comes upon evidence of a massacre of civilians - but in the same location are other bodies that he believes don't quite 'belong' there. Then five mutilated bodies turn up within the city, again in curious circumstances that alert Reinhardt's policeman's instincts. Even in the midst of so many other atrocities, Reinhardt isn't going to let these past without investigating, and finds himself on the trail of a lucrative scam being run by some of the German troops.
I read the first of this series, The Man From Berlin, back in August, just as The Pale House, book two, came out and, apart from forgetfulness, I can't think why I haven't read this sooner. Reinhardt is a man trying to keep his ideals in a world where precious few of them are left; one of those 'good' men who find themselves caught up in something they don't approve of but powerless against the might of authority. Therefore, the massacre of civilians by the army is something he can do nothing about, but whenever it is possible he's determined to see justice. Reinhardt's investigations lead through the streets and alleyways of this old city, from theatrical evenings in the company of a beautiful woman to the grim cellars of the Ustase's headquarters, The Pale House, where people disappear without trace.
Although his past is explained, mainly through flashbacks, I feel it probably IS necessary to read The Man From Berlin first to understand both Reinhardt, with his mix of honour and patriotism that pull him in opposing directions, and Sarajevo and its people.
Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - No Exit Press
Genre - Adult historical crime whodunnit World War 2