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The Divided City (A Gregor Reinhardt Novel)…
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The Divided City (A Gregor Reinhardt Novel)

by Luke McCallin

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A Divided City is the third book featuring German policeman Gregor Reinhardt. The first two were set during the war, but this one begins in 1947 Berlin, where Reinhardt has returned to the police force. Everything has changed now, and even though he's back, his colleagues neither like nor trust him. Each person on the force has been sponsored by one of the four temporary governing powers – England, France, United States, and Soviet Union. Reinhardt has been sponsored by one of the Americans.

One night he is called to a rundown building, where he finds two dead bodies that appear to be unconnected. One of the dead men is identified as Carlsen, a British agent, who is thought to have been killed by a criminal as part of a bar fight. The other dead man is Noell, a former German Air Force veteran. Reinhardt volunteers to investigate the Noell case, while the rest of the police focus on Carlsen, who appears to be the more important of the dead men.

I love the way the author describes post-war Berlin, a city ravaged by war and the wreckage of the city. He also has given us one of the most haunted of characters in Gregor Reinhardt. The secondary characters are incredibly well done. The story can be difficult to get started due to the unfamiliar names of people and places, but once I had them settled in my own language, I had no difficulty following the story. A Divided City is more of a crime novel that the previous stories and can easily be read as a standalone book. It's impossible not to compare this to the Bernard Gunther series by Philip Kerr, but they are actually quite different. Most books that have WW2 settings stop at the end of the war, or give us a perspective from the victor's side. This one gives the reader a completely different side of the story – one from the view of a German. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Aug 9, 2017 |
This is the third book in the series and WWII is now over and Reinhardt is back in Berlin as a policeman. He is still very much a troubled soul, with no family left and only his friend Brauer for company.

Unliked by his colleagues he is working the night shift when called to a run-down tenement where a body has been found. As the investigation develops he is forced to confront his personal demons about his personal role in the war.

There are people though who want to continue with the war and won't accept they have been defeated which leads to problems for all concerned.

Reinhardt finds himself working with British agents as well as Americans and Russians and finds he gets on with them despite having been on opposing sides during the war. As the investigation continues it leads him to discover what scientists were trying to develop and why this has led to what is happening now.

One of my favourite passages is when Reinhardt goes back to his bombed out home desperately searching for anything from his family life there.

This is a fascinating book, not least the descriptions of war-torn Berlin. The people are starving and many have extremely inadequate homes. It's good to read something which shows how the city and people of Berlin suffered and not just showing them all as Nazi sympathisers.

The author does an amazing job of describing the harsh realities of life.

From feral children cadging cigarettes to women ostracised for fraternising this book shows the reality of a defeated people.

The ending of the book is very good and has twists that were not forseeable. ( )
  Northern_Light | Dec 28, 2016 |
This story is set against the background of a ruined and divided city, one in which many of its citizens are on the point of starvation and anarchy feels like an ever-present danger. It is 1947 and ex-German Intelligence Officer Gregor Reinhardt is now an Inspector in Berlin’s civilian police force, an organisation he had left before the war to escape the Nazis. However, in this post-war period it is one which is now largely dominated by communist sympathisers. Consequently he feels ill at ease with his colleagues, just as they feel suspicious and distrustful of him, regarding him as an outsider and as having too many links to the Americans. Political allegiances within the divided city lead to tensions within the force as the different factions compete for power. These tensions are exacerbated when two men are found murdered. However, although his colleagues seem disinclined to waste much time investigating the crimes, Reinhardt believes the deaths are linked and, wondering whether there have been any similar deaths, is determined to investigate further. These investigations lead him to believe there is clever and dangerous serial killer targeting former German pilots. He soon realises that the American, British and Russian occupying forces all have an interest in the outcome of his investigations and he finds that his work is both helped and hampered by their competing demands. His life is often in danger as he tries to do a good job in the face of these political influences; no one is quite what they seem and he struggles to know who he can trust.
Luke McCallin’s writing conjured up an evocative picture of a city and a country trying to come to terms with the aftermath of a long and brutal war. He powerfully captured the atmosphere of despair, fear, suspicion and distrust which was the background to every aspect of people’s lives. His descriptions were so detailed that there were times when I felt I could find my way around this divided and defeated city, smell its smells and hear its sounds. I thought that all his characters were well-drawn and credible. He used the dilemmas they faced to convey a picture of people who would do anything in their struggle for survival as they tried to come to terms with the past in order to find ways of moving forward. I enjoyed the reflections on the accommodations and compromises people often have to make to achieve this, as well as on the personal dilemmas and conflicts which drive them to seek resolutions. I found Reinhardt a particularly fascinating, complex and philosophically reflective man, driven by a need to seek justice but riven with self-doubt and guilt; a flawed but immensely likeable character. The plotting of the story felt believable and there were enough twists and turns to make it an engrossing read. I thought that the author used his comprehensive research in a way which enhanced the story in a compelling way and yet which never felt overtly intrusive.
Although I ended up feeling totally engaged with this story I did find it difficult at first because, having not read the two earlier books in the trilogy, I felt constantly distracted by allusions to the main character’s past which were influencing his thinking, actions and motivations in this story. This is always a difficulty in reading a book in isolation but I do think I would have found it easier had there been just a little more detail of his past history included earlier in this story. In fact, on p 333 there were a couple of short paragraphs which succinctly described his time in Bosnia and the effect this had had on him and when I read those I just wished I had been able to read them sooner. As it was, it wasn’t until I got almost a quarter of the way through the book that I felt I was able to read without feeling frustrated by my lack of knowledge. However, I shall now read the earlier two books – and maybe I will then re-read this one in order to gain even more insights into this interesting character!

My thanks to Real Readers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  linda.a. | Nov 27, 2016 |
Luke McCallin - The Ashes of Berlin

The Ashes of Berlin is the third in the Captain/Inspector Gregor Reinhardt series by Luke McCallin.

The fighting is over and Reinhardt like millions of other Germans must find his place in the post war world. 1947 Berlin is a city of rubble, a traumatised population and the overbearing presence of the occupying forces. Reinhardt has reluctantly returned to the Berlin police force, they don't want him, (he is just a little too independent), but a little manipulation from his American friend, Collingridge, gets him a posting on the kripo night shift. Reinhardt is marking time until the discovery of an unidentified body, beaten and broken, in the stairwell of a crumbling apartment block in the American sector. A second dead man, Andreas Noell is found in one of the flats - something about the crimes strikes a chord with Reinhardt, a serial killer is on the loose. Initially the Ami-MP's are not interested but the unidentified man was working for the British and now they and the Americans are all over Reinhardt's investigation. Dark secrets at the heart of the war begins to emerge. As if life is not complicated enough for Reinhardt he falls under the scrutiny of Russian MGB colonel Skokov who has his own agenda. The newly re-established police force is at war with itself and gangs of kids, criminals and Nazis vie for control of the streets. Everyone is watching Reinhardt's every move.

This is a superior police procedural with a lot in common with the American private eye noir novels of the 1940's, the lone wolf detective. The Ashes of Berlin is a solid murder mystery, the investigation is raised above the crowd by the evocative use of time and place and a very clever plot that draws on some lesser known dark moments of Nazi history during the war and their repercussions after it.

The novel is driven by Reinhardt and his investigation, and as McCallin states in the historical note at the end of the book, events are seen through his eyes so the story is heavily character driven and paints a very personal view of the city. It is not a study of post war Berlin, nevertheless, it is rich in the detail unfolding around Reinhardt. McCallin creates a very credible late 40's Berlin - ruins, tough living, and mean streets. An earlier rejected title for the book was 'A Divided City' and McCallin conjures up the fractious relationships the allied powers have to forge with each other and with German administrative bodies as well as the local populous. There are little glimpses of the time, like the Russian concern to fill the police force with communist sympathisers rather than good detectives that make the background come to life.

Reinhardt is a wonderful character; a survivor, his wife dead, his son long lost to the Nazis, guilt trapped by his own past and fear yet desperately trying to do the right thing. He's a loner up against the odds dedicated to finding the truth no matter that nearly every one wants to get in his way. The supporting cast are also colourful and rounded, I particularly liked Skokov, the dangerous Russian intelligence officer.

This is a thrill ride of a book, a real page turner, sprinkles of humour but broad dark tones. The story unfolds at a steady pace that keeps you both interested in what is going on and guessing all the way to the end. It is a really satisfying read and stands out in an area that has attracted a lot of writers in recent years. For excitement The Ashes of Berlin reminds me of Sam Eastland's Pekkala series but we are also firmly in Bernie Gunther territory (Philip Kerr's German detective/PI), as to that Reinhardt and this novel are original enough to charm it's own readers - more please.

This novel works as a stand alone read partly because Reinhardt has taken a new path in his career after the war so I don't think starting here is a problem but the earlier books set in Bosnia are well worth tracking down. The two previous novels tell the story of Captain Reinhardt as an investigator with German military intelligence during WWII: 'The Man from Berlin (2014), The Pale House (2015), both published by No Exit Press. ( )
  paulobk | Nov 21, 2016 |
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'The Ashes of Berlin' (UK) is also published as 'The Divided City' (US)
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"Luke McCallin, author of The Pale House and The Man from Berlin, delivers a dark, compelling thriller set in post-World War II Germany featuring ex-intelligence officer Captain Gregor Reinhardt. A year after Germany's defeat, Reinhardt has been hired back onto Berlin's civilian police force. The city is divided among the victorious allied powers, but tensions are growing, and the police are riven by internal rivalries as factions within it jockey for power and influence with Berlin's new masters. When a man is found slain in a broken-down tenement, Reinhardt embarks on a gruesome investigation. It seems a serial killer is on the loose, and matters only escalate when it's discovered that one of the victims was the brother of a Nazi scientist. Reinhardt's search for the truth takes him across the divided city and soon embroils him in a plot involving the Western Allies and the Soviets. And as he comes under the scrutiny of a group of Germans who want to continue the war--and faces an unwanted reminder from his own past--Reinhardt realizes that this investigation could cost him everything as he pursues a killer who believes that all wrongs must be avenged"--… (more)

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