Sarajevo in 1943 makes a fantastic setting for the intricate mystery/thriller The Man From Berlin by Luke McCallin. Yugoslavia has been captured by the Germans, who turn part of the country over to their allies the ultra-nationalist Croats of the Ustaše Party.
Sarajevo is part of the Independent State of Croatia, but the city has also been home to large groups of Muslims and Serbs, the latter having their own paramilitary group, the Cetniks, fighting for independence. Add the Communist Partisans into the mix and you’ve got a setting teeming with tension and intrigue.
When a rising star in the Ustaše Party, a beautiful woman who was a journalist, and a German officer are found murdered, the case is turned over to Captain Gregor Reinhardt, an intelligence officer who is also a former police detective and World War I veteran. Reinhardt’s personal life is coming apart at the seams, memories of his dead wife and the probable loss of his estranged son at Stalingrad sending him into a alcoholic tailspin.
Reinhardt is teamed with a Croatian police officer who is less interested in finding the killer or killers than using the case to settle some scores with non-Croats, but as he digs into it the German officer finds something he thought was lost forever: a purpose.
I enjoyed this story, which is layered and has some interesting twists and turns. I can see, however, how readers without some background of World War II in general or Yugoslavia in particular may have a harder time figuring out who’s who. Quibbles: After a nice buildup of tension, the end chapters are a bit more action-oriented than I expected. Also, I would say the book is overlong by about fifty pages and the occasional use of modern terminology, especially in the dialogue, is off-putting. The latter is all the more jarring as the author obviously did extensive research on the setting and period.
Note: I don’t normally spend a lot of time on reviews of traditionally published works, preferring to concentrate my efforts on the Independent Author ranks I am proud to be a part of.