Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ostland - David Thomas

My review of Ostland first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. I am posting it today with their permission. Hope you enjoy!

First line: "The police chief was naked when they came to arrest him."

Using the actual German Criminal Police and SS officer, Georg Heuser, and the events surrounding his life, David Thomas, author of Blood Relative, tells a chilling story of how a human can devolve from fine, upstanding citizen to heartless killing machine.

Georg Heuser is a young man with strong ambition when he joins the Criminal Police (a.k.a. Kriminalpolizei). He intends to do his job superbly and rise accordingly in the ranks. The first case he investigates--and helps solve--is a high-profile serial murderer. In grotesque irony, Heuser's superiors reward him with a promotion to SS-First Lieutenant and a transfer to Minsk where his job is to assassinate helpless Jews as part of the Nazi's "Final Solution."

Although a fictionalized account, Ostland is an emotionally challenging read. Thomas carefully examines the life of this respectable individual and the forces that enable his transformation to mass murderer. Without exempting Heuser from personal responsibility, Thomas questions the level of his guilt and provokes his readers to do the same.

Ostland alternates between sections told in Heuser's voice during World War II and sections told from the perspective of a pair of the criminal trial lawyers twenty years later. The latter includes little of the actual legal proceedings and a superfluous affair between the two that temporarily draws the reader's focus away from the power of Heuser's story.

Despite the slight deviation, Thomas has created a captivating narrative with a high level of suspense and a morally charged theme. A horror story told with grace and passion.

Ostland is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9781623658496) from Quercus.


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