From prolific novelist Keeley (School for Pagan Lovers, 1993, etc.), a sincere if somewhat uneven story about the Nazi massacre of an entire Greek village near the end of WWII, and the effort decades later to pin the deed on a prominent Austrian statesman (Kurt Waldheim by any other name).
Jackson Ripaldo, a frustrated journalist-turned-mystery-writer in Washington, is called to investigate the atrocity by his old Austrian friend, Count Wittekind. Ripaldo, familiar with the part of Greece where the massacre took place, accepts the challenge and goes right to the village, where he interviews a former commander of the local resistance. The man tells him what he knows, but makes it clear that his wife knows more, since she herself worked in the Nazis’ headquarters as a cleaning woman. From her, Ripaldo receives a tale of passion and torment, as she reveals that she was in love with a German medical orderly whose death she believes triggered the massacre. The plot thickens when Ripaldo goes to Austria, where he interviews the orderly’s boss, a former Wehrmacht officer who tried to use the woman as a go-between with the resistance when he wanted to desert. He indicates that the orderly survived the war and came home to Austria—and, indeed, Ripaldo finds the man’s house, only to learn that he died five years earlier. He left a journal, however, an account that tells Ripaldo and the Count what happened just prior to the massacre and who was responsible for ordering it. Outraged, the American publicly confronts the subject of his investigation—with predictable results.
The details of individual stories are gripping and real (Keeley has also written extensively about Greek culture and translated contemporary Greek poetry), but the deposition-style narrative and the dud of an American protagonist keep the story from realizing its dramatic potential.