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Posts Tagged ‘Nazis’

THE SHADOW KILLER by Arnaldur Indridasôn

In the 1940s, Iceland was undergoing dramatic changes.  It was a sovereign nation connected to Denmark, with that country’s King Christian X as its ruler, but with its own set of laws.  Although Denmark was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940 and there was a Nazi presence in Iceland, the latter remained neutral throughout World War II.  Due to the island’s strategic location, however, Great Britain illegally invaded it in 1940; a year later the United States, while still neutral, took over Iceland’s defense and quartered thousands of troops there, making it the largest Allied base in the North Atlantic.

This small country, formerly politically unimportant, now was playing a major role in the Allies’ defense, and of course that brought issues to Iceland that it had never faced before.  The Reykjavík police department had only one detective, as there were very few homicides in the city.  That was about to change, however, and Flóvent is called out to investigate a murder that will involve not only his own department but the military forces of the United States and Britain.

The victim is at first identified as Felix Lunden, an Icelander of German decent, primarily because the corpse is found in the apartment he is renting.  However, it is shortly discovered that this is not the correct identification, and Flóvent and Thorson, the latter a member of the British/Canadian military, must try to find out the dead man’s identity as well as locate the missing Lunden.

Lunden’s father, Rudolph Lunden, is a German-born physician and one of the few Germans who has been allowed to remain in Iceland after the outbreak of the war.  But getting information from him about his son is nearly impossible, as the two have been estranged for years.  And when the two investigators begin looking into the murder and disappearance, they uncover Nazi ties involving not only the father and son but the father’s brother and the former German consul in Iceland.  Tying the four men, at least superficially, to the Axis cause is a cyanide pill found hidden inside a suitcase in Felix’s apartment.

When the corpse is finally identified as Evvindur, a traveling salesman, Flóvent and Thorson begin looking for the woman who had shared Evvindur’s flat.  Vera had last been seen leaving the flat in the middle of the night by a neighbor who voices her suspicions that the woman is a prostitute, consorting with the British and American soldiers while Eyvindur was away.  So now there are two people involved in the murder who are missing.

The Shadow Killer is the second in Arnaldur Indridasôn’s Shadow series that takes place in pre-war Iceland.  It’s a wonderful look back into a nation and its population that are undergoing major changes.  As always, the author’s characters and plot are first-rate and will keep you reading until the last page.

You can read more about Arnaldur Indridasôn at various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

IF THE DEAD RISE NOT by Philip Kerr: Book Review

Another Bernie Gunther novel by Philip Kerr, another winner.  If the Dead Rise Not, the sixth and latest in the series featuring a Berlin police detective/private investigator in 1930’s-40’s Germany, takes the reader from that Nazi-infested city in 1934 to the Mob-infested city of Havana in 1954.  Different criminals, different motives, same endings–death.

Bernie Gunther first appeared in March Violets and went on to appear in several other novels.  In If the Dead Rise Not the scene is pre-Olympics Berlin, with Adolf Hitler already in power and determined to show the world that his country is able to stage the greatest Games ever. But already the world is suspicious of him, with arrests and worse of German Jews, communists, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals.  So an American “businessman” is sent to Berlin to convince Avery Brundage, who is visiting the city and is in charge of deciding whether the Americans will participate in the upcoming Olympics, that all the rumors of Nazi terrors are unfounded.  If you want an efficient, well-run Games, Max Reles tells Brundage, this is the city for you.

Similar to a mystery I reviewed earlier, The Garden of Beasts by Jeffrey Deaver, If the Dead Rise Not pulls the reader into pre-World War II Germany.  And this between war time period is very important to the plot.  The country is still suffering from its total defeat in the Great War.  Inflation is rampant, Teutonic pride has been hurt, territory has been lost, the British, French, and Amis (Americans) seem to have it all.  Someone (or many someones) must be to blame for all of that, and that appears to be anyone in the country who is not 100% Aryan through at least three generations.

Gunther is a throw-back to an earlier time, when there was law, as well as order, in the country, when shops didn’t have signs in front of them telling Christians not to buy from Jewish shops, when informers didn’t make neighbor fear neighbor.  Not to say that Bernie’s perfect–he knows how to go along to get along.  Bernie’s no Nazi and he does his job, which is now hotel detective at the famed Adlon Hotel, as well as he can without overtly antagonizing the Brown Shirts that seem to be on every corner.  But he tries to do the right thing, even when that comes back to bite him, as in the case of getting a young woman off the streets and into a respectable job with the afore-mentioned American businessman.  That backfires, and the murders begin.

Then the scene switches to Havana and the story of two other tyrants, Fulgencio Batista and Raul Castro. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose; the more things change, the more they stay the same (Alphonse Karr, 1849).  How right he was.  It seems as if no matter where Bernie goes, his past follows him.

I strongly suggest reading this series in order, which will allow the reader to follow the path of Bernie Gunther as well as the history of Germany.  It’s not a pretty read, but it’s a true one.

Unfortunately, Philip Kerr doesn’t have a designated web site, but you can read more about him at various sites on the Internet.