I seem to have been reading a lot of really good books recently; I mentioned Damien Boyd’s latest police procedural, Beyond the Point, the ninth in his series of DI Nick Dixon books, and now I have just finished one book by Frank Goldammer, and have started a second by him.
Goldammer was born in Dresden and the book I have just finished is The Air Raid Killer so the Dresden connection immediately makes you think of the dreadful bombing of Dresden in 1945. The novel starts in December 1944 and is set in Dresden so immediately the reader has that awful, sense of impending doom. The main character, Max Heller, is a civilian detective in what remains of the police force and he’s taken to the scene of a most ghastly murder. He has to conduct his investigation while the Nazi regime is crumbling, and the city is on the verge of chaos, with an in-flood of refugees, wounded men from the Russian front,, desperately poor and hungry people living in appalling circumstances. The bombers are the enemy, but as a British person reading it, of course the bombers were the RAF – it makes an interesting read, and very thought provoking.
I don’t think it will spoil anything to mention that the story continues through and after the two days of intensive bombing, February 13th – 15th, 1945. The horrific almost unbearable descriptions of what happened are hard reading, but there is nothing gratuitous in how Goldammer carries his story through those two dreadful days of horror. I really felt I had learned something from it, and it gave me much to think about.
Max Heller continues his instigation after the ruined remains of the city have fallen to the Russians and eventually by his dogged persistence he uncovers the truth of the murders – the victims and those responsible. It’s one of the most remarkable detective stories I’ve ever read, and way up in my list of remarkable books of any genre/
This was Frank Goldammer’s first crime novel translated from German into English by Steve Anderson, and his second, also about Max Heller set in 1947, is the one I am reading now – A Thousand Devils. I’m pleased to see there are two other Max Heller books by him, also some other novels – not yet translated. As well as being a novelist, Goldammer is also a professional painter. What a clever and talented man!