Thomas, David - 'Ostland'
It is 7 February 1941 and during a snowy bleak winter, twenty-eight-year-old Georg Heuser a new young, idealistic detective is sent on his first case, assisting the chief of the Berlin murder squad. He was chosen for this important task as he was the best student in his year at his training school. The squad are investigating the biggest manhunt the city has ever seen. Lone women are being either raped or killed on the Berlin train service at a terrifying rate and soon Georg is fully committed and working long hours assisting in locating the murderer. They check out many crime scenes and several different potential killers until after several arduous months they reach a successful conclusion and Heuser arrests the suspect.
Forward to July 1959 in West Germany and lawyers Max Kraus and Paula Siebert are investigating war crimes committed on an unbelievable scale in an area near the World War II Russian Front called Ostland by an accused named Georg Heuser. How could this be! How could this brave diligent, conscientious policeman go from helping to solve complicated murder enquiries to participating in the holocaust on a huge magnitude? This very enlightened book by this author presents a case of what if the circumstances that Georg Heuser experienced were presented to the reader, would we be strong enough to resist them?
This is an incredibly complex and thought provoking book which combines fact and fiction in a way which I have only come across twice personally. I'm reminded of HHhH by Laurent Binet and AN OFFICER AND A SPY by Robert Harris. The people in the book and many of the events actually occurred but have been either dramatised or adjusted to improve the readability of the book. The accounts of the Holocaust are particularly troubling but it is an historical event and the author has softened the horror of it somewhat but readers of a sensitive nature should perhaps avoid this book. The author has researched the background most thoroughly and he details his research in a prefix and appendix to this extraordinary book.
David Thomas also writes a series of thriller books under the pen-name Tom Cain. I have read many of these books written under his pen-name and also BLOOD RELATIVE, his previous book under his own name. As a journalist he is well used to doing a lot of detailed research for his articles and he applies the same techniques to the authorship of his books which one cannot fault for the facts that he provides which you must recognise as authentic. I was shocked but enthralled by the fascinating story of this book, which once started was impossible to put down. This must be the best historical mystery book I've read this year. A very impressive book which I strongly recommend.
Read another review of OSTLAND.
Terry Halligan, England