...the crime fiction & mystery portion of reading avidly dot com: a casual reader's journal
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
another indie -- and it's a good one: Pilgrim Soul, by Gordon Ferris
Corvus/Atlantic Books, 2013
paper -- my sincere thanks to Shannon for my copy
First - an apology to Shannon who sent me this book a while back. I had my nose stuck in Eleanor Catton's delightful but very long The Luminaries and had to put Pilgrim Soul on the back burner for the duration.
Reading indie crime fiction can be iffy at times, but this one I really liked. It's book number three in a series, and it also overlaps with another series the author wrote that features one of the characters, a friend of the main character. Pilgrim Soul is set in Glasgow in 1947, during an incredibly cold winter; it was so bad that a train was robbed of its cargo of coal and people were using church pews for firewood. The lead protagonist is Douglas Brodie, former cop, not so long out of the army and now a crime reporter for a newspaper. The action starts when Brodie is visited by a group of four men, all Jewish, who report that homes in their community are being broken into. Brodie decides that the way to track down the culprit is to "follow the loot," and what he discovers sets off a chain reaction of deaths and launches Brodie back to a place he'd rather not be, as the crimes seem to be related to the concentration camps. Brodie, as it turns out, had witnessed firsthand some of the horrors of the Holocaust, serving as an interrogator of war criminals in Germany, and has since spent a great deal of time trying to forget. Now his past returns with a vengeance, and it just may be that he's gotten in way over his head.
While plotting, core mystery and the unraveling of it all are done very well, what I really enjoyed about this book was how the author locates his novel perfectly in time and place. Two years into the postwar period, the Holocaust has left a lot of Jewish people wanting to go to what will eventually become Israel a year later, and in the meantime, certain groups exists who believe the only way to get what they want is through terror. The Holocaust has also left its mark on non-Jews like Brodie, who suffers from what we now call PTSD after the horrors he witnessed in the camps and the testimonies he'd heard as an interrogator. And while the Nazi war crime trials are still going on, behind the scenes some of the intelligence services are working on preparing for the emerging new enemy, Stalin and the Soviets. And one more thing -- I'm always on guard against frivolous use of the Holocaust as a backdrop in a novel; here I needn't have worried.
This series sounds like one I'd like to start from the beginning, but this one is easily read as a standalone. Perhaps it's a bit too much for cozy readers; police procedural people would probably like it, fans of UK crime fiction will like it, as will people who enjoy historical fiction. It's not noirish but at the same time time, the novel does have a bit of an edge, which I always look for when I read crime. In short - I really liked this one.
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I have been intrigued by this book fir awhile, but when I found out that it goes back to Nazi horrors, I put the desire to read it on hold.ReplyDelete
I may read it and skip sections, as it sounds interesting, I also love books set in Glasgow.
I think you'd like it, Kathy. If you want my copy, I'll send it to you! This is the year of the outward flow of books from this house!!Delete
Hi Nancy, sure I'd like to read it and will share it. It has intrigued me for awhile. Is there anything I can send you?ReplyDelete
Oh Kathy, don't worry about it! I'm happy to share, number one, and number two, I'm trying to keep an equilibrium going in the crime fiction room. Yes, I have an entire room of my house just for crime fiction. If you think about it, that's pretty sad.Delete
My family have all quite suddenly become obsessed with Gordon Ferris lately, but I've yet to read any of his - sounds like this could be worth taking the plunge with, sounds great!ReplyDelete
Thanks! I think he's a fine writer -- maybe a little dramatic but otherwise an author to follow.Delete
Thanksm Nancy. Just got the book. It will be well shared.ReplyDelete
Wasn't me! I had to leave for California right after I wrote this, then I came home & the flu forever so I haven't been to the post office. The one I'm sending you is packaged but not sent until tomorrow.
Thanks so much, Nancy. I got the package today, and am already enrapt in the plot. Who knew Gordon Ferris was witty on top of a good writer? The wit and the Jewish characters pulled me right into the book.ReplyDelete
Interesting that Ferris is explaining what was going on in 1947 in Palestine and he's objective. I respect him for that.
If only I didn't have to do anything else, but I think I'll let a few things slide until another day; sometimes a good book takes priority.
Glad you're liking it!Delete