The Pale House by Luke McCallin (Gregor Reinhardt #2)

The Pale House is the second book in the Gregor Rinhardt historical crime fiction series by the author Luke McCallin. I received a copy with a request to read and review, so as  I was just going on holidays abroad, I took the book with me to read there on my iPad.

Before I start the review, let me just preface with the note that the books in the series are best read in order. Even though the actual story is different from the one before, there are many things (especially at the beginning of the book) that point to earlier happenings and can confuse the reader a bit due to those references to the past. Apparently even the location (Sarajevo) where the story takes place is the same with the one in the first book, The Man From Berlin. There is a distinct continuity from one book to the next that bears taking into account.

Having said that, I enjoyed The Pale House immensely. Gregor Reinhardt is a German intelligence officer during the second World War who has just been promoted and reassigned to Feldjaegerkorps, a very powerful military police branch. His first assignment takes Gregor to Sarajevo to oversee the retreat of the German army through Yugoslavia.

I guess it’s true what they say, ‘once a policeman, always a policeman’. Soon he picks the scent of some killings in the area, some more gruesome than others, and when he tries to put 2 and 2 together, things just don’t add up. And this makes him more curious than it’s healthy during those years, which make him soon a target – but who is really after him?And who is behind those massacres anyway?

The background is WWII in Eastern Europe, and I have to give credit to the author, he has done it in a very atmospheric way. I really felt like I was there at the time. Coming from an Eastern European background (was born in a neighboring country, in Romania, which fought along the Yugoslavians against the German occupation at the time), I’ve learned lots about the struggles of our countries in the war. Not only from school, but also from older family members who were there.

This was, in fact, my mindset when I started to read the book. My first impression of Gregor, along with every other German, was negative, simply because we all know the history and the Germans’ parts in it. However soon I started to change my mind about the main character, because I realized he was different. Sure, he was German, on the ‘wrong’ site of the war, but he was honest and fair, without those sadistic tendencies towards the oppressed that many in the power were know at the time.

Not only that, but soon it turned out that he actually had friends in the Resistance. There is more to Gregor than would meet the eyes, and this was when I really wished I had read the first book in the series before picking up The Pale House.

At heart, this is a police procedural novel and we get to witness Gregor’s detective skills at work, and no doubt, he is a great detective. Mostly working alone, he unravels thread after thread until he finally puts the clues together to reveal a very disturbing story. I won’t give away the plot, but from what I understand, variations on the theme did actually happen in WWII.

Overall The Pale House is a suspenseful novel with a rather complex plot. Definitely not a boring book, far from it, in fact. The historical aspect that surrounded it makes for some thrilling WWII fiction that seems pretty close to being real. While reading it, I was totally immersed in the book and I didn’t feel that I was reading fiction at all.

I appreciate the historical note that the author put together at the end of the book, as it gave us a glimpse into just what really happened in Sarajevo during those sad days of the end of the WWII. I did know many things from back home, but it was interesting to read about the Ustase, because they do feature quite a lot in the book and it’s the first time I’ve actually heard about them at all.

I highly recommend The Pale House, but do make sure you read The Man From Berlin first. You won’t regret it.

To read more about The Pale House by Luke McCallin or to get the book, head over to Amazon


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