Monday, July 20, 2015

Review of Werewolf by Matthew Pritchard (Salt, 2014)

August 1945 in the British occupation zone in Germany. Detective Inspector Silas Payne, a fluent German speaker, has been seconded from Scotland Yard to help train a new local police force, although his recruits are still interned.  When two bodies are found in the cellar of house requisitioned by the army Payne starts to investigate, quickly encountering resistance from the local British personnel who do not want him interfering in their affairs.  When a British soldier is killed, the commander and his deputy become convinced the murders are the work of still active Nazi resisters, so-called werewolves, seeking to undermine British authority.  Payne, however, believes it is the work of a single killer with a history of murder.  Whilst the army are chasing shadows, Payne employs his policing skills to try and track down the depraved killer who has used the war to hone his skills.

In Werewolf Matthew Pritchard joins together a story about the British occupation of the Western Germany and acts of profiteering, revenge, poor management, trying to place order onto a chaotic society and chase down war criminals, with a serial killer tale.  At one level, it’s pretty well executed, except towards the end where it becomes a little ragged and a few loose ends are left hanging, on another level the serial killer angle felt like a different kind of story interwoven into an end of war tale; a kind of sensational twist to an already murderous war.  There was, to my mind, plenty of interesting avenues to explore concerning the British occupation, Nazi war crimes and ratlines on their own.  Nonetheless, the story rattles along at fair clip and its engaging fare, there is some nice contextualisation with respect to the period, and Silas Payne is a strong lead character.  Overall, a quick-paced, tightly written piece of post-war crime fiction. 


Unknown said...

It sounds fascinating, and I think I will add this to my "must read" list, but it also sounds as though readers looking for a thriller involving "real" werewolves (transformed creatures) will be disappointed since -- if I read it all correctly -- the "werewolves" label is merely figurative rather than "literal."

Rob Kitchin said...

Yes, Werewolves were the name given to underground Nazi groups who were to continue the war secretly after the final collapse of Germany.