Review: Ostland by David Thomas (5/5)

Friday 18 July 2014
February 1941, wartime Berlin. Brilliant, idealistic young detective Georg Heuser joins the Murder Squad in the midst of the biggest manhunt the city has ever seen. A serial killer is slaughtering women on S-Bahn trains and leaving their battered bodies by the tracks. Heuser must confront evil eye-to-eye as he helps track down the murderer.

July 1959, peacetime West Germany: a pioneering young lawyer, Paula Siebert, is the sole woman in a federal unit investigating men who have committed crimes of unimaginable magnitude and horror. Their leader has just been arrested. His name is Georg Heuser. Siebert is sure of his guilt. But one question haunts her: how could a once decent man have become a sadistic monster?

The answer lies in the desolate wastes of the Russian Front, the vast landmass conquered by Hitler’s forces… the new empire the Nazis call Ostland.

Based on an extraordinary true story, Ostland is a gripping detective thriller, a harrowing account of the Holocaust and a thought-provoking examination of the capacity for sin that lurks in every human soul.

Quite simply one of the best books I have ever read. I can't even think clearly after finishing this book let alone try and write a coherent review about it. Ordinarily I try to ignore reviews of books before reading them myself but I read one for Ostland from a fellow blogger and just thought 'Wow, this sounds like one of those books that is going to be a difficult but rewarding read, and a story that will remain with you for a long time' and it really was. I'm just speechless. Crime blogger extraordinaire Raven from Raven Crime Reads has a stunning review that you should definitely check out. I'm only going to write a brief 'review'. Books like these I really don't feel qualified enough to talk about but I can only try.

I accepted this book as it was written by thriller writer Tom Cain who I am a massive fan of. Then I researched it and really had to wait until I had a few days to just spend reading it. Once you start reading this book you won't want to stop but I found myself needing to take time away from it at the same time to gather my thoughts and get my head together. Stories based on real events are all the more hard hitting and have more of an emotional impact than fictional stories. The research put into this book is just staggering and full marks to the author for writing this masterpiece and probably one of the best books of the past few years without a doubt. I Googled the events depicted here and was floored by the sheer quantity of the material out there.

This is so much more than a crime thriller, people often overlook the crime genre given that it is flooded with throwaway reads that you read once and then move away from but in my opinion it is also a genre which contains some of the best books ever written and this book easily joins that list. In June 1941, in wartime Berlin, Georg Heuser is a new member of the Murder Squad and joins the biggest manhunt the city has ever seen. Fast forward then to 1959 and Heuser is arrested and put on trial as a war criminal. As a reader you wonder how this once idealistic young detective ended up like this.

The writing is just brilliant. The whole book is extremely authentic and also extremely moving, I did shed a tear or two. This isn't just a book that has been written for gratuitous reasons, the events depicted within are described in a way that enhances the story, shocking, upsetting and repulsing the reader but connecting us even more to the story and the characters within. The book can get quite distressing, not for the faint hearted and one that some people may struggle with but I can't stress enough how much this book should be read by everybody. Crime fans yes, historical fiction fans yes but also anyone who can appreciate one of those rare books that only come along a few times a year if we are lucky. Books you read and just never ever forget.

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