Growing up in Germany, I was familiar with the legend of Nibelungen and the tales of Hagen and Siegfried. I imagined stumbling across the famous treasure one day and having to fight off the evil Alberich. Even in popular culture, you will still find references to the Nibelungen Legend, so I was definitely interested when given the chance to review a mystery book dealing with the legend of the Nibelungen.
This book spans several decades of German history. I starts with SS lieutenant Johann von Ritter in the final days of WWII. Once a strong believer and supporter of Hitler and the Nazi ideology since it was the only ideology that he was familiar with growing up in Germany, the experience of several years of war have taught Johann differently. He feel betrayed by the Nazis and in a last action of disobedience, hides a strongbox that he was supposed to transport to the port of Stettin and away from the advancing Russians. He manages to disclose its location in two letters; one letter goes to his sister. The other letter is intended for his friend, but Johann is badly injured and so his second letter is entrusted to a nurse that takes care of him after his leg was amputated.
Lena Mueller, a young nurse, works in a school turned hospital in these final days of the war. Doing whatever she can to help the wounded, and very little it is in most cases since supplies are low, she is drawn to Johann. Not sure why, but somehow he is different than other patients and when the last evacuation truck leaves, she and the remaining staff are faced with the advancing Russians. In the melee that follows, Lena and Johann become lovers and Lena will carry Johann's child.
Fast-forward to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Christoph Mueller is called to his dying grandmother, who entrusts a letter to him. Lena Mueller is the grandmother and the letter is the second letter written by Johann von Ritter with clues to the strongbox he hid in the final days of WWII. Christoph at first does not know what to make of the letter, but in the end he tries to solve the puzzle of the two letters and retrieve the strongbox that contains a great treasure.
The author Edwin Todd manages to diligently research two important periods of German history; these are final days of WWII and the period when the Wall came down. In this story, these two periods are linked by the story of a treasure that goes back hundreds of years and is central to German history and culture. Both periods, including the modern period around the Berlin Wall coming down, are full of danger and suspense. The author manages to engage the reader in both parts of his book, even though I have to admit that the part around WWII was my favorite part of the story. The storytelling here is no-nonsense and gripping. I really felt transformed into these final days, full chaos and people feeling lost and not knowing who to turn to.
I was very impressed with the intelligence of the author that is behind the story and his telling of the story. It is a very complex story that still enables the ready to follow quite easily. The storyline is definitely one of the more unique ones I have encountered recently and the ability of the author span two far apart periods of German history is impressive.About the author:
Edwin M. Todd grew up in Scotland, but obtained a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College. He continued to work as a lawyer and also owned a successful construction company. True to Scottish roots, he is now the director of the referee department for USA Rugby. As part of his prior professional experience, Edwin had to write mostly technical pieces. This historical mystery is his first work of fiction.
About the book:
The book is available at amazon.com
Publisher: ET3 Publishing
Date of publish: November 2014
Disclaimer: I obtained a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed in this post is solely my own and has not been influenced by third parties.