The Man from Berlin
This not-your-average murder mystery is set in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in May, 1943. The country is nominally under Nazi rule but controlled by a myriad of appointed agencies. When a prominent socialite and a German intelligence officer are found murdered, the Abwehr (military intelligence), the Sarajevo police, the Feldgendarmerie (military police), the Ustasa (governing fascist party), the Geheime Feldpolizei (ultra-powerful Secret Field Police) and even communist patriots get involved in a multi-level manhunt not always aimed at bringing the killers to justice.
The book is divided into two parts. The first, covering the initial stages of the investigation, is more about the central character’s struggle with his personal demons. This is Captain Gregor Reinhardt, former Berlin police detective and decorated WWI veteran. He now serves in military intelligence and is ordered to work with local police to find the killers. His tragic family situation, nightmares of war horrors, and daily struggle to function in the suffocating war machine keep him on the brink of suicide.
The reading here is hard going as we are drawn into the depths of Reinhardt’s depression. But, if you make it to the second half, when Reinhardt is empowered to launch a full blown investigation, you will emerge into a spirited, fast-paced, and exciting hunt. The ending is all too real and not to be spoiled.
The author has an excellent sense of place. Descriptions of the Yugoslavian countryside are especially well done. Also, Reinhardt’s character is compelling, as complex and conflicted as the powers that surround him. None of the characters in the story is flat or stereotyped; it is a cast of very human personas locked in the vicious politics of wartime occupation.
When all is said and done, I would say this is an excellent story. I look forward to the next Gregor Reinhardt mystery.