The Pale House got its first mention in Publishers Weekly last month in an article about the great variety of detective fiction set during wartime–both the First and Second World Wars–or which has as its roots the experience wartime engendered in the characters. The fundamental question is the same across the genre: what is it about one death among many? Or put another way, what drives a character to pursue a course that is bound to lie athwart events that, ordinarily, should render almost any chance at justice impossible.
”Luke McCallin has one of the more interesting resumes of authors using the mystery genre to talk about WWII. He worked in Bosnia in the late ’90s as a political adviser to the United Nations mission, mandated to reform the country’s police forces and judiciary, as well as a relief worker. In July’s The Pale House (Berkley), his German hero, Capt. Gregor Reinhardt, is transferred to a new military police branch to maintain army discipline during the chaotic retreat from Greece, Montenegro, and Bosnia; after he witnesses a massacre of civilians in Sarajevo, Reinhardt discovers a high-level plot within his own government. McCallin says he was concerned that his book not be “misunderstood as an apology because Reinhardt was a German, a soldier, a servant—however unwilling—of a regime such as the Nazis.” He adds, “What I was trying to get at was the human aspect of one man caught between choices.” The impact of WWI on his lead with be explored in a forthcoming prequel, with a younger Reinhardt in the trenches and faced with a mystery to solve.”
Some of what was reviewed or mentioned I’ve read, and some I look forward to discovering. A few of the titles concern investigations during WWI, a period in which I intend to set a Reinhardt prequel. Three of them in particular–Dead Man’s Land (with none other than an aged Doctor Watson resuming service as an army doctor), River of Darkness, and A Test of Wills–were highly enjoyable reads. A Test of Wills had an unusual play on the main investigator/sidekick combination, with the novel’s main character, British Army veteran Inspector Rutledge, haunted by the ghost of Corporal MacLeod, a soldier he ordered executed during the war.
A series I look forward to discovering is Sheldon Russell’s featuring Hook Runyon, a one-armed railroad worker in the American South during WWII. His novel The Yard Dog takes place near the close of the war, when a large number of German POWs were incarcerated in camps scattered across the prairies of the United States.
So, interesting article, indeed, with much to be inspired by and look forward to.