A German comes to Maine to investigate his brother’s long-forgotten murder
Dieter Kallick fought for Rommel in North Africa, doing his duty to the Fatherland right up until he was captured by American GIs. He and his comrades had been told stories of the savagery of the Americans, but when he arrived at the work camp in Maine, he was surprised to find the countryside beautiful and the people kind. In the summer of 1944, he worked in a logging camp in the backwoods of New England, befriending a quiet young girl named Libby Pelletier. She is the only one to mourn Dieter when he dies.
Fifty years later, Libby’s memories of the logging camp are stirred when Dieter’s brother Wolfgang appears seeking information about Dieter’s death. His questions puncture the placid surface of this small, rural town, and soon lead to another murder. To find the truth behind these two killings, Libby will have to learn to put the past to rest.
“A stark, stunningly well-written first novel.” —The New York Times
“Brilliantly understated . . . This dazzling first novel deserves a place in all collections.” —Booklist
“[White’s] strength lies in his characters and his use of language to evoke the dark woods of rural Maine and the even darker lives of the people who spent the war years there.” —The Denver Post
Michael C. White is an author of mystery fiction. In 1996 he published A Brother’s Blood, about a German POW whose death in the waning days of World War II is investigated by his brother some five decades later. A critical success, it set the tone for White’s novels to follow: literary mysteries that often draw on forgotten pieces of history to address what it means to be human. He has written about the Civil War in Soul Catcher (2007) and the Russian side of World War II in Beautiful Assassin (2008).
When not writing, White teaches fiction workshops at Fairfield University and the University of Southern Maine. He lives and writes by a lake in Guilford, Connecticut.
Remarkably controlled for a first novel, this literary thriller from a Pushcart nominee for short fiction tells of a malignant secret that comes back to haunt the denizens of a backwoods Maine logging community that was once the site of a WWII labor camp for German POWs. In her never-ending struggle to nurse her alcoholic brother Leon back to sobriety, narrator Libby Pelletier, the 61-year-old proprietor of a local country store and cafe, brings him home from the VA hospital in Augusta. Coincidental to Leon's homecoming, Libby, whose deceased father once ran the local logging operation for a giant paper company, is visited by a German on a pilgrimage to clarify the puzzling circumstances of his brother's death following his escape from the POW camp in March 1945. At the time, both Libby and her brother were teenagers working with her father's crew. After Libby receives foreboding phone calls from an anonymous man asking to speak to her brother, Leon is found dead; shortly thereafter, Libby is warned against making further inquiries into the young POW's death. Tension increases and the mystery deepens as the determined Libby, thwarted by coverups and menaced by insidious forces, stumbles down one blind alley after another as she searches for the truth behind the two deaths. Shuttling deftly between past and present, driven by undercurrents of latent energy, this novel marks White as a talented and energetic writer. U.K, translation rights: Sobel, Weber.