From occupied Germany in 1946, Anderson (Liberated, 2014) draws a dark tale of brothers, each struggling with a moral dilemma, who become caught up in deadly international machinations.
U.S. Army Capt. Harry Kaspar, assigned to Munich’s Regional Military Government, has a secret: he killed a deserter. Masquerading as an American colonel, the thief had pirated riches plundered from murdered Jews. There’s another secret: Max, Harry’s missing brother, has been in Germany since before the war. Was Max a Nazi? Then Irina, a tattered, starving refugee, shows up with word of Max. Harry is swept into a maelstrom of intrigue and violence, its catalyst Stalin’s demand that Eastern Europeans in West Germany be shipped to Soviet territories. Those trips terminate in the gulag or execution. Anderson deserves a standing ovation for his gritty sketch of postwar, rubble-laden Munich as an ominous, near-anarchic theater of the absurd. Harry learns that Max, once caught up in false-flag Nazi operations, seeks penance by finding refuge for Irina’s clan of Ukrainian Cossacks—but some Cossacks had fought for the Nazis. Harry and Max are empathetic protagonists, but even Anderson’s minor characters earn the spotlight: Maddy, Harry’s social-climbing paramour; Dietz, a beaten-down German policeman too willing to help; Maj. Joyner, a by-the-book tough guy whose son was killed in action, leaving him hating every German; Aubrey Slaipe, a spook lurking deep in the Occupation’s bureaucracy; and mysterious Sabine Lieser, once a Nazi target because of her youthful socialist allegiances, who now runs a displaced persons camp. There’s enough action and mystery to keep the pages turning—traitors done in by a shashka, a Ukrainian sword; a dramatic face-off in Czechoslovakia’s snowy Šumava Mountains—all spun out in a masterful story of redemption found within the brutalities of postwar realpolitik.
Classic noir shadowed by the hulks and rubble of the once-proud city of Munich, a character itself in this haunting tale.