Ruin Value: A Mystery of the Third Reich
Post-World War II Germany is a fascinating place. Much has been written on the postwar victors, especially England (although postwar deprivations made them feel less than victorious). Much less has been written on postwar Germany (David Downing’s series excepted). Ruin Value takes the reader to Nuremberg, as that city is preparing for the trials of war criminals. An influx of reporters has arrived to cover the proceedings, including Kate Wallace. Anxious to find a story that will bring her fame, she discovers that Nathan Morgan, an American captain and former detective, is investigating a string of serial killings. He’s aided by former Chief Inspector Werner Beck, of the German police. Beck was jailed by his nemesis, but Morgan has him released to his custody to help in the investigation.
A ruined city with trials that have the eyes of the world upon them is a provocative setting for a serial killer. Morgan and Beck work to determine a pattern – is it the black market, is it the nationalities of the deceased? And what to make of the book pages placed next to the bodies? This is one of those mysteries where the killer is revealed to the reader before the protagonists. While normally not a structure I favor, in this case it ratcheted up the suspense as the killer grew closer to the detectives and the reporter. The time and setting is a reminder that anti-Semitism didn’t miraculously disappear once the war was over. Morgan is Jewish and endures epithets not only from the Germans but from his fellow Americans. Not only war is hell.