#BookReview Where God Does Not Walk (Gregor Reinhardt #4) by Luke McCallin @noexitpress

Where God Does Not WalkAbout the Book

The Western Front, July 1918. Gregor Reinhardt is a young lieutenant in a stormtrooper battalion on the Western Front when one of his subordinates is accused of murdering a group of officers, and then subsequently trying to take his own life. Not wanting to believe his friend could have done what he is accused of, Reinhardt begins to investigate. He starts to uncover the outline of a conspiracy at the heart of the German army, a conspiracy aimed at ending the war on the terms of those who have a vested interest in a future for Germany that resembles her past.

The investigation takes him from the devastated front lines of the war, to the rarefied heights of Berlin society, and into the hospitals that treat those men who have been shattered by the stress and strain of the war. Along the way, Reinhardt comes to an awakening of the man he might be. A man freed of dogma, whose eyes have been painfully opened to the corruption and callousness all around him. A man to whom calls to duty, to devotion to the Fatherland and to the Kaiser, ring increasingly hollow…

Format: Hardcover (432 pages)            Publisher: Oldcastle Books
Publication date: 9th December 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Find Where God Does Not Walk ( Gregor Reinhardt #4) on Goodreads

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My Review

I’ve been a fan of this series ever since I read the The Man From Berlin in 2016. I then read, in quick succession, the next two in the series, The Pale House and The Ashes of Berlin. And that’s where, much to my disappointment, it seemed the adventures of Gregor Reinhardt might end. (I’ll admit to having developed a bit of a crush on Reinhardt by that time.) So you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn there was a new book on the way and that it was a prequel as I love a good prequel.

A prequel obviously presents both opportunities and challenges for an author. The main challenge is that the author can’t change what will happen in later, already written, books.  So it’s no spoiler to say the reader knows that, however dangerous the situations in which he finds himself – and they are often extremely dangerous – Reinhardt isn’t going to die in Where God Does Not Walk.  But, of course, he doesn’t know that and thanks to the skilful writing of the author, Reinhardt’s many dices with death don’t lose any of their impact, tension or excitement.

On the other hand, the main opportunity presented by a prequel is the ability to delve more deeply into the past of the main character, to explain the background to decisions or actions they may take in later books, and to fill in more of their back story.  Where God Does Not Walk does that in spades, taking the reader back to the First World War and introducing us to a young Gregor Reinhardt, only nineteen years old but already battle-hardened. From the off, he shows early signs of the intelligence, curiosity and, let’s face it, rather dismissive attitude to authority he displays in later books. However, what he also shows is a fierce loyalty towards the soldiers he commands, a strong sense of justice as well as a remarkable ability to survive the most perilous of situations.  I also loved the first appearance of small details, such as a watch, that readers who’ve read the previous books may recognise.

If you’ve ever wondered what it must have been like to serve in the frontline in the First World War then this book will leave you under no illusion that it was hell on earth. The descriptions of the result of artillery and machine gun fire on human bodies leave little to the imagination. In one memorable scene an appalled Reinhardt, looking around at the severely injured soldiers in a casualty clearing station, wonders at ‘such a butchery of men’. However, if anything, the most shocking thing is the seemingly casual attitude of those who put soldiers into situations where they know few will survive intact, if at all. ‘Men die in all kinds of ways, for all kinds of reasons. Some of them are avoidable. Some of them are accidental. Many of them are stupid. Many are unthinkable’. The book also explores the psychological effects of war, exposing some of the crude treatments inflicted on those suffering from what we would today recognise as post-traumatic stress.

It’s clear a massive amount of amount of research has gone into the book and from time to time I did find I needed to refer back to the list of characters at the beginning of the book to remind myself who was who and what position they occupied in the military hierarchy.

Of course, Where God Does Not Walk also incorporates an astonishingly complex mystery that had me perplexed for most of the time – as was Reinhardt too for a large proportion of the book.  As he becomes involved in the investigation of a series of gruesome murders, Reinhardt lurches from one violent confrontation to another as he attempts, in any way he can, to tease the truth from those reluctant, or too afraid, to reveal it. As hints of a conspiracy emerge that may involve some in the highest level of the country’s institutions, there are also signs of a nascent anti-Semitism.

If you’re new to the series, Where God Does Not Walk is the perfect place to start, although I warn you you’ll probably be adding the other books to your wishlist by the time you finish it.  And it gets better because the author promises us this is just the start of a new cycle of books taking Reinhardt from where we leave him in this book up to the point we meet him in The Man From Berlin.

Where God Does Not Walk is both a complex thriller and a stark and, at times, unflinching exposition of what it was like in the frontline during the First World War. As one character observes, ‘No man survives a war and is the same man he was at its beginning’. Welcome back, Reinhardt.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of No Exit Press via NetGalley.

In three words: Dark, intense, compelling

Try something similarTwo Storm Wood by Philip Gray

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LukeMcCallinAbout the Author

Luke McCallin was born in Oxford, grew up around the world and has worked with the United Nations as a humanitarian relief worker and peacekeeper in the Caucasus, the Sahel, and the Balkans. His experiences have driven his writing, in which he explores what happens to normal people – those stricken by conflict, by disaster – when they are put under abnormal pressures. (Photo/bio: Goodreads author page)

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#BookReview #BlogTour The Visitors by Caroline Scott @RandomTTours @simonschusterUK @CScottBooks

The Visitors BT Poster

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Visitors by Caroline Scott. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Simon & Schuster for my digital review copy. Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Jill at OnTheShelfBooks.

The VisitorsAbout the Book

1923. Esme Nicholls is to spend the summer in Cornwall. Her late husband Alec, who died fighting in the war, grew up in Penzance, and she’s hoping to learn more about the man she loved and lost.

While there, she will stay with Gilbert, in his rambling seaside house, where he lives with his former brothers in arms. Esme is fascinated by this community of eccentric artists and former soldiers, and as she gets to know the men and their stories, she begins to feel this summer might be exactly what she needs.

But everything is not as idyllic as it seems – a mysterious new arrival later in the summer will turn Esme’s world upside down, and make her question everything she thought she knew about her life, and the people in it.

Format: Hardcover (448 pages)           Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 9th December 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

I absolutely loved Caroline Scott’s two previous books, The Photographer of the Lost and When I Come Home Again and In The Visitors, she continues her exploration of the impact of the First World War on both those who fought and the loved ones of those who never came home.

Having enjoyed many happy holidays in Cornwall, I loved the setting and the way the author conjured up the beautiful landscape and seascape of the area around St. Ives. There is some wonderful descriptive writing that at times is almost poetic in nature. ‘Esme watched the morning mist lifting. In this opalescent light, the garden was a watercolour and the birdsong was like a salutation.’

The theme of the healing power of nature runs throughout the book. Having originally found solace in tending the garden of her employer, Mrs Pickering, when she was first widowed, Esme feels an immediate affinity with Mrs Pickering’s brother, Gilbert Edgerton, who has channelled his energy into creating a wonderful garden. Esme’s love of nature is shared by Rory, one of the former soldiers who form part of Gilbert’s household. Together Rory and Esme find joy in observing the flora and fauna that surround the house. ‘Rose-chafer beetles shone among the browning May blossom, glinting a metallic copper green.’ And I thought it was clever to include excerpts from the nature column that Esme contributes to her local newspaper back in Yorkshire.

I loved the idea that the act of planning a garden, nurturing plants, saving seed and sowing it again, and planting trees provide a sense of continuity and demonstrates a belief in the future. And that, with time, nature will return to even the most barren landscape, evidenced by the poppies and other wildflowers that bloomed in the abandoned battlefields of the Western Front.

Esme’s memories of her marriage to Alec, her reflection that more time has passed since his death than they spent together, is a poignant reminder of the grief that so many women experienced during and after the First World War; the dreams dashed and the lives changed forever. At one point Esme recalls how she and Alec had vowed to ‘be braver together, travel further, and never be like those couples who sat in disappointed silence’. Now, often all Esme has is that disappointed silence.

Each of the members of Gilbert’s household are deftly drawn so that the reader gets a sense of the very different ways in which the war has affected them, whether that’s physically, emotionally or psychologically.  So there’s silence where once there was a beautiful singing voice, sleep disturbed by nightmares, a lingering sense of guilt at not having been able to save others. However, what also comes across is that they are a band of brothers who share a bond forged in war, one that can never be broken. The excerpts from Rory’s book documenting his experiences on the frontline provide the reader with a stark insight into the reality of war and depict the dreadful sights that he and his comrades witnessed.  For Esme, reading Rory’s book also provides answers to the many questions that arise following the unexpected event part way through the book that turns everything on its head.

The Visitors is a book that rewards the reader on so many different levels. It’s a meditation on grief, betrayal and loss but also an affirmation that, despite discovering what you always believed to be true may have been an illusion, it is possible to find the strength to start over again and the courage to follow your heart.

Did The Visitors pass the ultimate test, namely that a Caroline Scott novel makes me cry at some point? You bet it did.

In three words: Eloquent, tender, emotional

Try something similarTwo Storm Wood by Philip Gray

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thumbnail_Caroline Scott author photo - credit Johnny RingAbout the Author

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France. The Photographer of the Lost was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick

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