Now, I thought I loved historical fiction, but The Blameless Dead by Gary Haynes incorporates an era I find very interesting, a little bit of horror and has that thriller edge, and now I’ve realised that I REALLY love historical fiction.
In the dying days of the Second World War, Pavel Romasko and his Red Army colleagues pick their way through the detritus of a dying Berlin. Stumbling upon the smoking remains of a Nazi bunker, they find something inside that eclipses the horror of even the worst excesses in the city above them.
As the war ends, retribution behinds. But some revenge cannot be taken at once; some revenge takes years.
Seventy years have passed and FBI agent Carla Romero and New York lawyer Gabriel Hall are enlisted to investigate a series of blood-chilling crimes.
The roots of these crimes seem to be in the distant past, but the suffering they cause is all too present, and for one of them, personal.
Haynes is a pure genius
I was quite intimidated by the size (484 pages), but the chapters themselves are actually relatively short, so it didn’t feel like that long of a book to get through, if you know what I mean? Saying this, I found the book so intriguing and more-ish that I sped through it, however there were times when my eyes glazed over some paragraphs, and I found I had to re-read; I think this was due to the fact that there was so much information and description. There were lots of welcomed conversation to split these paragraphs up, so you get a good momentum going.
That is the only slightly negative thing I have to say about The Blameless Dead, but it’s very very minor, and because I read lots of thrillers, my head is used to short sentences. EVERYTHING else about this book, I adored.
Haynes is a pure genius. The book jumps back and forth to multiple locations and times seamlessly, with fluid and purpose not often seen. It’s easy to follow and takes you on an unforgettable journey from past to present whilst keeping you engaged and unravelling the story.
There are lots of characters, so I assumed it would be difficult to remember who’s who, but they all had different personalities and were well reflected. I’ve read a few books recently with not as many characters in comparison to The Blameless Dead with too similar personalities, making it difficult to differentiate. For this reason alone, I’d put Haynes in my top ten writers. Not one stone was left unturned.
In terms of the horror side, there were some paragraphs which were, honestly, some of the most unsettling stuff I’ve read. This is a given when you’re reading about the Second World War, but the violence and scenes in this book was on the next level. I don’t want this to put you off, as it is clear when it is coming so you can skip that paragraph if needs be, and it decreases in intensity as you continue reading. It’s raw and really reminds you of the horrors of this time, stepping (slightly) away from the concentration camps.
If you strip away everything above and just leave the plot, it still would have been an amazing book. It was so well-thought through and included an unexpected turn of events, whilst using factual information (I googled a lot) with a thriller-like effect in the last 80 pages and a satisfying ending.
A truly superb book. Well worth the read and warrants a place on any historical fiction lovers’ shelf.
The Blameless Dead, Gary Haynes, RRP £7.99 (paperback); Book Depository
Publisher: Endeavour Quill
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Thriller