The Kingdom Of Ashes

Written by Robert Edric
Review by Doug Kemp

Set in the fictional town of Rehstadt, near Hanover in the British Zone of Occupation in 1946, this is a bleak examination of Germany in the immediate post-World War II period. Englishman, Captain Alex Foster is part of a team interrogating suspected minor Nazis and others involved in war crimes. He has a love affair with a local German interpreter, Eva, and the novel centres on relations and tensions with German civilians and the British and US forces.

It is a story of stereotypes—the British are either decent chaps or nasty bastards while the Germans are manipulative and devious, survivors of the foul Nazi regime, or essentially good folk who were caught up in the national maelstrom and are trying just to survive. And the Americans are there to boorishly achieve their own aims at the expense of both the British and Germans. Alex is oddly naïve as the novel’s central figure. He can be frustratingly simple with human relationships, yet has the difficult job of trying to unravel the truth in the thread of obfuscation and denial from the suspected Germans.

There is very little authorial narration—the story unfolds mostly through dialogue and bare description of events. This did not help the novel establish and sustain substance or an authentic sense of historical background. However, this is a capable historical novel with a rather depressingly gloomy perspective on mankind and human behaviour.