The Air Raid Killer by Frank Goldammer
The Air Raid Killer (2016) is a spectacular, thrilling piece of writing by German novelist Frank Goldammer (translated by Steve Anderson). The story line wraps itself around the grisly World War II horror of the 1945 Dresden fire burning, provoking a surreal-like feeling as you advance through the story’s intriguing teasing mysteries, twisted disguises and utterly debased murders. Max Heller is the non-Nazi 6-foot tall detective, who, with his sidekick Oldenbusch as photographer, must compete with doctrinaire party concerns of chief detective, SS officer, Klepp Waffen, to investigate the strange murder of nurse Klara Bellman, assaulted, nearly skinned during an air raid. The atmosphere is intense and gloomy in Dresden, unique German cultural setting of Medieval architecture and statues. A strange feeling looms in the German breast as the end of the war is on the horizon with the Russians quickly advancing from the east, pressing thousands of refugees and soldiers into the city’s communication and transportation hub. Many of the refugees are German Silesians,forced out by advancing Russians as usurpers of Nazi-acquired land and scorned by the Nazis as half-Aryans. How, upon this real horror could a mystery writer yet impose another horror of wolf howling, ‘fright man’, murders? Goldammer does remarkably well. The chilling night and day of the city’s bombing, February 13 through 15, 1995 appears suddenly and horrendously. The reader is practically caught off guard in an unrelenting firestorm of dust, ash, and blood, loose bricks and rubble from buildings crashing down, pieces of walls, smashed furniture and thousands of bodies burnt to a crisp. Heller finds himself with others trapped in a cellar. They must climb upon each other to lift themselves out. “To his horror, he saw the entire world was on fire.” “Why would they do this to us?” a little boy asks. Yet there is another murder of a nurse. A wolf’s howl had been heard, there are rumors of a ‘fright man’. The mystery continues unmitigated by destruction as a deeply scarred city tries to pick itself up. Detective Heller eventually forms an unlikely alliance with Commissar Alexei Zaitsev of the Russian army who uses his authority to foster Heller through his investigation. A large German mansion lands on their palette, with hidden places and a dungeon to careen the mystery into creepy twilight. Zaitsev eventually ques Detective Heller on the depraved hell of the concentration camps the Russians had come upon in January. Together, in Goldhammer’s fabulously involved mystery, Heller and Zaitsev find that they are working to place an end to yet another indescribable horror. A well-paced, gripping, exciting tale.