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on 19 February 2017
The Pale House: The Sequel to The Man from Berlin (A Gregor Reinhardt Novel Book 2)
After having read The Man from Berlin and The Ashes of Berlin, I am now reading The Pale House. Comparing Luke McCallin's books to Phillip Kerr and Sam Eastland, writers which I have read both before, I'd say that Luke McCallin is the best ever writer of war and postwar stories of Germany.
Excellent research of the historical facts and background; the main character, Gregor Reinhardt, a former police officer from the KriPo Berlin, injured, hurt, torn up between the love for his country and people, and the Nazi regime, whom he is serving as a soldier. McCallin is drawing a fine line between the ordinary 'Landser', the soldier, and those driven by opportunism and careerism, willingly following a brutal regime of oppression and murder to gain personal advantage.
I am surprised to read about McCallin's age! But then, I am not surprised, having read his biography here. He is a writer who, undoubtedly, knows about wars, about human suffering, injustice caused by political systems, and the human struggle to find a way to survive and still chose to do 'the right' thing.
I know, I am not going into details about his books. I am not a professional reviewer. You'll have to find out for yourself.
All I've felt, was the need to say this: McCallin is an extraordinary writer who has helped me to understand my grandfather (a Landser in Russia and prisoner of war) and my father (a former SS Officer cadet); he has helped me to find the soul and human heart and face behind the uniform which I have doubted and despised from early childhood age on.
If you like fast paced historical thrillers, very well psychologically described characters, impeccably researched history, suspense with a subtle hint to moral obligation of human beings, wherever they are thrown during political circumstances, he is the one you must read. No matter where in this world, Russia, Bosnia or Berlin, wherever, wars don't end with throwing bombs. Wars are the ultimate test for humanity to find out if it is worth to survive. I very much recommend all of McCallin's books, wholeheartedly. Can't wait for his next book! You might have guessed: I am a fan of his books!
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on 18 March 2015
Both The Pale House and The Man from Berlin are excellent reads - gripping and well written. The author has continued to develop Reinhardt's character, tenacious yet apprehensive, but with a degree of insight into his own vulnerability at a time when Germany's war effort is collapsing. In some respects, McCallin's rounded characterisation of Reinhardt reminds me of Forrester's Hornblower, in his rounded self doubt. Mr McCallin appears to have researched well and is able to give a detailed description of Sarajevo and what it was like as the war draws to a close. I really enjoyed the first book and this is just as good. I look forward to the next in the series.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 April 2017
I decided to read this book as the setting is unusual for a German soldier/detective novel. It takes place in 1944 Sarajevo with German forces on the retreat and still having to work with their difficult and unruly allies, the Croatian Ustase. The hero of the story, Captain Gregor Reinhardt, has been drafted into the Feldjaegerkorps, an emergency corps created in November 1943 to maintain discipline, rather like ‘super’ military police. Feldjaegerkorps officers were able to exercise considerable power over other units including even the Waffen SS.
Captain Reinhardt comes across a number of unexplained killings that disturb him and he decides to investigate despite the ongoing evacuation of the city and the increasing terrorism of the Ustase.
The author has an excellent writing style and his descriptions of the topography and scene setting are just right. There is a slight longueurs in the middle of the book when our hero is struggling with his conscience and the ‘love element’ is being developed but I would urge readers to plough on as the story is resolved in a very satisfactory manner.
The author very helpfully supplies an ‘Historical Note’ at the end of the book in which he demonstrates that the novel reflects very well the actual historical situation in Sarajevo and the various factual characters involved in the fighting, particularly in the Ustase and the partisan forces.
I found the book very entertaining and a really good read despite my slight reservation and would recommend it to all fans of this genre of detective fiction.
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on 1 February 2018
Very good historical background. You don't however need to be a historian to enjoy it. Characters and plot are excellent and it moves along at a good pace. There are plenty of twists and turns while also being thought provoking. Thoroughly enjoyed it, enough that I've ordered the second one in the series. I did feel that it was perhaps fifty pages to long, sometimes less is more, but then some authors seem to get bored and try and finish a book to quickly, I guess its a judgement thing, it certainly doesn't detract from the book though.
Finally this is NO Bernie Gunther in the making and it would be wrong to compare the two. Yes they come from similar backgrounds and similar time frame but that's where it ends. Read and enjoy this for what it is, if you want Bernie Gunther then read Philip Kerr, don't try and push this into that.
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on 3 September 2016
Back in April I read McCallin’s first Reinhardt novel (The Man From Berlin) completely off the cuff, as it sounded different and interesting. Set in wartime Sarajevo with a rather lost, bitter detective in the Abwehr, it was a fascinating, complex read with an unusual point of view and setting. Without wanting to risk spoilers, the way it ended suggested that any sequal would have rather a different feel, and the character would be different.

It’s taken me a while to find the time, but now I’ve read the second book (The Pale House) and, while I had initial reservations, I am impressed and thoroughly enjoyed it. Reservations why? Well, as I said above the previous book had a somewhat game-changing ending, and I think the first maybe 10-15% of The Pale House is spent putting Reinhardt back in a position where he can investigate the plot. It feels a little like the suggested future at the end of book 1 has been glossed over to allow book 2 to flow. So to be honest it took me maybe 10% to settle into it. Then, as Reinhardt returns to Sarajevo, this time as one of the Feldjaeger – the Wehrmacht’s military police – he stumbles across a grisly scene that will have long-reaching effects for him and the military in Bosnia. And with that discovery, the plot begins to roll forward.

And what a plot. You see, while I thought this book took a short while to untangle its legs and get running, once it did it quickly began to outstrip the first book. The plot is tighter, more delicate, intricate, and yet carefully, cleverly revealed to the reader. Moreover, the plot is compounded with a number of subplots, some of which are linked and others not, forming a grand scheme that, while it was easy to pick out about half way through some of what was happening, right to the very end I was still being hit by surprises.

In Reinhardt’s world, no one can be trusted. The enemy are not the allies (Britain, the USA and Russia.) They are, to some extent, the partisans plagueing Bosnia. They are also the native para-military nominally organisations allied to Germany and yet causing more trouble than any enemy. But the most insidious enemies in Reinhardt’s world almost always come from among his own people – among the hierarchy of the German military.

Quite simply, I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot other than how nice it is, as it would be far too easy to accidentally drop in a spoiler. I shall just say that this book is set some time after the first, and while there are a few faces cropping up who we met in book 1, they are largely incidental or at best supporting characters. This is a whole new tale with a whole new cast and it shows that McCallin is anything but a one trick pony. The Pale House is, despite my initial worries, better than The Man From Berlin. I heartily recommend them both. They are tales outside my era-based comfort zone, but I love this series and I am excited to note that a third novel (The Divided City) is due out in December.
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on 28 April 2016
How come I've never heard of Luke McCallin before? That's the first thought I had when I finished the book because it is an outstanding wartime thriller with a totally believable and unique protagonist: the dashing but damaged Captain Reinhardt. Death, betrayal, violence - the story is brutal and shocking but the occasional warm touch of humanity lifted me out of the darkness of WWII and the German retreat through Yugoslavia. Beautifully written, sometimes lyrical and poetic, this book touched me more than any history book about this bloody period could. I will be reading more of Luke McCallin, that's a promise.
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on 29 September 2015
This is a tightly-written and deeply-researched novel that is worth every penny. The author has a flair for moving the plot forward on every page, keeping this reader awake until the early hours in order to finish the book at one sitting.

Although a sequel, the book is a stand-alone, and references to the earlier story are given in just the right amount to enable understanding, yet not slow the movement of this plot.

The hero is captivating, fully-fleshed in 4 dimensions, as are all his characters. There are no human cyphers filling in plot holes. The author wears his research lightly and at no point is the story abandoned for exposition.

The real USP of "The Pale House" is the hero, Gregor Reinhardt. A serving German officer in Sarajevo in WWll? A sympathetic character? McCallin makes this work, as he did in "The Man From Berlin", with a plot that is more detective story than thriller, with a hero who is more a good cop than a bad German.

If pushed, I would say this is in the tradition of Alistair Maclean - before he wrote his books from the film scripts: full of action, satisfying characters, and dramatic integrity. This book, and the previous one, would translate exceedingly well to the silver screen.

Highly recommended.
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on 11 October 2015
The Pale House is the second book in the Captain Gregor Reinhardt series. Reinhardt joined the police after the First World War, rising to become a detective inspector in the Berlin Kripo before joining the Abwehr and the fringes of the German resistance. In the closing stages of the Second World War he finds himself in Sarajevo as the partisans close in, working for the military police. The city is in turmoil as the Germans prepare to retreat and the Croatian Ustaše lash out at the civilian population, knowing they are about to be overrun. Despite sense of impending doom and savagery, McCallin has Reinhardt conduct a murder investigation, weaving a clever, compelling and somewhat complex plot. He very nicely captures the fear at work in the city, the tension within the German ranks and between them and their Croatian collaborators. Reinhardt is a somewhat sombre character, but his principles and role as a flawed but ‘good German’ in a corrupt regime makes him an interesting anti-hero. The other characters are well penned, though given the case and situation, they’re all a pretty rum lot. I particularly liked the very strong sense of place and it’s clear that McCallin has done his historical research, yet it doesn't dominate the story but rather provides good context. Overall, an excellent historical crime tale and a strong addition to what’s shaping up to be a very good series.
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on 16 June 2017
The second book in the Gregor Rheinhardt series see's him once again embroiled in the horror of the Balkans during WW2. Transferred to a Feldjaeger unit he finds himself investigating an increasing number of murders in Sarajevo all seemingly linked.
Coming up against the brutalities of the Ustasha and an increasingly corrupt German army Reinhardt fights not only to complete his investigation but also to stay alive in the horrors of the apocalyptic last stand of the Ustasha.
Carrying on from The Man From Berlin, Reinhardt continues to find his personal redemption in the face of a brutalizing war machine.
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on 11 November 2015
Gregor Reinhardt is back in Sarajevo in early 1945, two years after the events in "The Man From Berlin", investigating nasty doings within the Wehrmacht and by its headbanger Ustaše allies, this time as an officer in the omnipotent (almost) and universally feared (almost) Feldjaegerkorps.
Sarajevo is a main transit point for the Wehrmacht's retreat from Greece and the southern Balkans and the partisans, to whom it is just about to fall, are beginning to encircle it - Mr McCallin does a first rate job of describing the atmosphere of a city under siege and suffering from increasing panic.
As in the case of "The Man From Berlin", this is an intelligent, very well written, dark and gripping whodunit (and whydunit), with excellent characterisations, including some basically good people, doing their best to get through barbaric situations, some immoral folk and some completely amoral folk.
I am looking forward to the next episode in Gregor Reinhardt's story
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