Into the abyss

Robert Edric is, apparently, a highly regarded writer, certainly the positive reviews splashed on the covers of his novel The Kingdom of Ashes would suggest this, as would his inclusion on the long-list for the Booker. I'm ashamed to say that I had never heard of him before picking up this book, but I definitely want to read more. He writes beautifully, and The Kingdom of Ashes is an enthralling thriller.

It's not exactly a novel idea, set in post-war Germany at the height of the Nuremberg trials, Ashes owes a lot to Graham Greene and The third man. It's nevertheless a fascinating look at the confusion within post-war Europe, where moral values are not always as clear-cut as may be believed, and where international politics often got in the way of true justice. The hero of the novel, Alex Foster, is serving with the British army in Germany, and is responsible for interrogating potential war criminals within the area that falls under British rule. What seems essentially a straight-forward task is complicated by horse-trading between the Russians and Americans (with the connivance of the British), life becomes a lot more complicated for Foster when he falls in love with a local girl, for whom life is already far too complex....

OK, it's not particularly original, but for a look at a country recovering from disaster, and for an examination of the moral complexities surrounding it, this is interesting stuff. It's also a great thriller, and there's some great characterisation of the two heroes, Foster, and his friend, a laconic medic.

Edric has written several other thrillers within a period setting - I look forward to reading them.


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