The Pale House: The Sequel to The Man from Berlin (A Gregor Reinhardt Novel) Kindle Edition
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At the end of the first book, Reinhardt, then in German military intelligence in Bosnia, joins a secret resistance faction. Fast forward to spring 1945, and Reinhardt is now in a military police unit. Exactly what the Feldjaegerkorps was is explained well in an epilogue, but I could have used that description up front; I wasn’t familiar with the group historically, and it wasn’t always clear from the context. The regular military police having failed to keep order among the troops and behind the lines, a new elite unit is formed in 1943 to do just that. It's like the FBI compared with local police. Reinhardt somehow ends up here, and lands back in Bosnia, after having been tortured and interrogated, but not broken, by the Gestapo. I found it unconvincing that anyone under that level of suspicion would have ended up here. And the sequence of events was a bit confusing.
In Sarajevo, Reinhardt stumbles across clusters of suspicious deaths, including some of soldiers and even three Feldjaegers themselves. Working against time before the Germans retreat from Sarajevo, he starts to unravel a complicated plot. He finds himself at odds with the leaders of a penal battalion for soldier convicts, with high-ranking offices, and particularly with the Ustashe, the Croatians whose brutality sickens even the Nazis.
He reconnects with Marisa Vukic, the mother of a Croatian actress and national heroine whose death Reinhardt investigated in the first story. Vukic now works with refugees, and it is to her that Reinhardt turns over three survivors who have witnessed a massacre, including a small boy.
McCallin has made a challenging task for himself. He has succeeded in making Reinhardt a sympathetic character – a decorated World War I veteran, a man of integrity, one who has rediscovered a self lost for years, and buried deeper in the worst hellholes of World War II.
What’s harder is making the story itself gripping. Reinhardt is investigating murders in Ustashe-occupied Yugoslavia, which is like investigating speeding at Indianapolis. Part of me sympathizes with those around Reinhardt who shrug at this and say, who cares? And many of the victims are German soldiers themselves. Yes, he’s seeking justice, it’s noble of him, he gathers evidence and gets autopsies done when no one else wants to – and we see that there were people in the German army who did this, even a War Crimes Bureau – but there seems to be a huge amount of futility.
The book takes off in its last quarter as Reinhardt, with others trying to kill him, finally unravels a plot by war criminals to escape following now-certain defeat.
The book drags in part because the material is so depressing. Around ten percent of Yugoslavia’s population died during the war, most of those deaths in intramural violence, much of that of shocking brutality. Sarajevo is full of impoverished refugees. And the Ustashe start preying on their own allies. The current order in Sarajevo is collapsing; there’s a certain end-of-the-world feeling.
Reinhardt surprisingly spends little time wondering about his own fate, what he’ll do after the war. March 1945 is barely a month before Hitler kills himself on April 29. The Reich is collapsing. Germany will surrender May 8. The German garrison in Sarajevo is about to retreat, but there's not as much sense as there should be of "We're about to lose this war", which certainly everyone in the German military should have had by then.
If McCallin continues this series, though, I’d find Reinhardt an interesting character to follow afterwards.
The book presents a history of Bosnia, the old Yugoslavia and its political factions. It is so well researched that it is evident as you read. I enjoyed the development of his characters and was happy that I read the first book before this sequel. It could stand alone but made so much more sense when read as a sequel. His books remind me of Phillip Kerr eg.Berlin Noir but there is more attention to the historical detail of the period. Last line of the book suggests there is more to come from Gregor Reinhardt as a civilian. I certainly hope so.
Never much liked crime novels......modern. But WW2 and prior - yes, becuase take away the violent act of a crime...murder...you have an historical setting which tells one much
Reminds me much of the German book 'Night of the Generals' with the psycho General Tanz.
Interesting location Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzogovina which I am familiar with. A good read all round - highly recommended.
Try also the 'Napoleonic' murders' by Armand Cabasson.....these are good too.
I hope there will be a third Gregor Reinhardt novel.....no doubt Post war.....the chaos of all those DPs, Vlasov Troops and Captured Axis...so much possibilities
This is a war thriller with unusually good action flow--despite a serpentine plot--and really interesting and original characters. The author weaves in some intelligent and authentic political ambiguities that add interest to the story. Among the latter--how do people committed politically to a cause, how ever twisted and perverted, behave in the face of coming defeat? How do the expected victors behave toward the vanquished enemy?
In any event, author McCallin leaves the door open at the story's conclusion for a followup episode of the Gregor Reinhardt story. I'll be looking for it. Also, if you enjoy this kind of period novel, the Captain Martin Bora series by author Ben Pastor, covers the same period and is really excellent.