Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ruins of War (Mason Collins #1), by John A. Connell

Berkley, ISBN 9780425278956, May 2015

It's winter 1945, and Mason Collins, former Chicago homicide detective, now an Army criminal investigator, is hunting a killer in Munich. This is no ordinary murderer. He's dissecting and dismembering his victims alive, with surgical skill, and enacting strange rituals with their remains. Mason, having been a prisoner of war as well as a soldier, has no love for the Germans, but the horror is too much for him to accept his immediate superior's pressure: That this is a German killing Germans, and not a major concern of the US military.

Even if it means cooperating with the German police, he'll do his job as he sees it, and find the killer. Mason's newly assigned partner, a woman war reporter, a member of his old unit in Army intelligence, and a senior German Munich police inspector, all play important roles in tracking the killer, and following him into places where Mason's own life is in real danger.

What makes this more than just another police procedural is the characterization. There is no cardboard here, no one-dimensional characters, not even the killer. He turns out to be a very complex individual, someone beset by internal demons, and there are moments when the saner piece of him is even somewhat sympathetic. Characters on both sides of the American/German divide are decent at their core. The sheer bureaucratic and practical difficulties of trying to conduct a reasonably efficient investigation when records are entirely paper, many records have been destroyed, police and population legitimately regard each other as enemies, and there's a major language barrier. People who in more normal circumstances would be motivated to cooperate, are motivated not to.

Mason has to pick his way through this minefield, before the killings cause public panic.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via Penguin's First to Read program.