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December 6, 2016 / schulerbooks

The Divided City, by Luke McCallin



It’s 1947, and, after a long and harrowing war, former ABWEHR officer Gregor Reinhardt has returned to the life he knows best — being a police Inspector in Berlin, now a wrecked echo of its former self, and slowly rebuilding.

For Reinhardt, it’s a bittersweet return. He is not liked by his new colleagues, who resent both his American patronage and inability to stop asking inconvenient questions. He can count on old friends, but is unsure of his superiors, and the motives of those higher above them.

There’s also the reminder of the tragedies that happened here, before he left for the war — the things that left him  drunk and suicidal in Yugoslavia. Back then, it took a personal connection to a mysterious and brutal case to bring him back to life. Now, as he walks through the ruins, perhaps he sees in them a reflection of his old self: sad and broken, but not without hope.

All the same, such mysteries still awaken something within him, and have a knack of finding their way into his hands.

It starts with a brutal death in a run-down tenement, over in the American sector. One body leads to another in the same building, killed in a slightly different manner. And what Reinhardt discovers in the dilapidated room leads him to wonder what lies behind the case.

Unfortunately his superiors — hands bound by Allied overseers — don’t want him to concentrate on the first body, but rather the second. He’s not happy with that, but has his orders.

However, as the bodies start to pile up before long, he comes to realize this mystery has several layers to it, and many secrets. Some of the secrets have to do with what’s been going on in Berlin since the war, while others lead back to the war itself, and horrible things that many people would rather stay buried in the recent past.

To get to the bottom of this mystery, and not fall victim to it, Reinhardt will have to use everything he learned in Sarajevo during the war. In that city, with its many invisible lines and hidden factions, he discovered how to slip between the cracks and use opposing sides against one another.

Only there were never so many sides in Sarajevo as there are in post-war Berlin. As the victors race to find treasure in the ruins, there are still those who will not let the Third Reich go. And all the while their Russian “comrades” are slowly tightening their fist around the divided city, now afloat in a sea of red, and seem to know of things before they happen.

Who can Reinhardt trust, and who is his enemy? He’ll have to learn to navigate this new postwar political geography if he’s to survive within the divided city…

Luke McCallin’s debut novel, The Man from Berlin, was a complex and compelling wartime mystery that was rightly well-received, inviting favorable comparisons to Alan Furst and Martin Cruz Smith. His second novel, The Pale House, further cemented McCallin as an author to watch out for, and Reinhardt as someone to cheer on, regardless of his uniform.

With The Divided City, the story comes full circle — presenting the Inspector with an extremely intricate and personal puzzle to tease out, clue by clue and body by body. There’s also a sense of redemption here, and of the closing of one long and bloody chapter in a life he didn’t expect to still be living when we first met him.

The Divided City is available at all Schuler Books and Music locations, and available through our website. You should definitely read The Man from Berlin and The Pale House, first.

-Jim Tremlett – Eastwood


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