Werewolf by Matthew Pritchard
August 1945, Germany.
The Allies have won the war. Now they have to win the peace …
Silas Payne is a Scotland Yard officer seconded to Germany to help implement the Allied policy of denazification. When a former Waffen SS soldier is found murdered in the cellar of a requisitioned house, Payne begins an investigation that leads him on a tortuous path of discovery through the chaos of post-war Germany and pits him against a depraved killer who will stop at nothing to protect his secret.
The central premise behind Werewolf had me hooked right off the bat. The thought that a serial killer was going about their ghastly business using the ending of a war for cover. It seems so blindingly obvious now when I think about it. Confusion and chaos on every street corner, Allied soldiers getting contradictory orders, while Axis forces attempting to flee or surrender. It’s the perfect place to indulge the darkest of acts isn’t it? People are still dying every day, who is going to miss a few more? More to the point, will anyone even care?
Silas Payne is more than used to dealing with worst of humanity. He has spent years working at Scotland Yard and is no wide eyed innocent; he is more than aware of the crimes that people of capable of. That said, trying to uncover a serial killer when you are already surrounded by death on such a huge scale, is a new twist. Everywhere he looks, Payne seems to find nothing but seedy characters and shady types, from swindlers using the cover of the Allied forces to gouge as much profit as they can, to ex-Nazis on the run doing anything to escape justice. Germany in 1945 is an uncontrolled mess. The good inspector has to try and untangle all the chaos, separate fact from fiction and uncover the truth no matter what the cost. It doesn’t help that as a mere civilian his investigations are viewed as interference by the local military authorities and he is given little assistance in his work. Just as well Silas Payne is such a tenacious sort.
Interspersed throughout the main narrative there are also short chapters detailing events seen through the eyes of the killer. You get the opportunity to learn the innermost thoughts and feelings of this particular animal. Pritchard’s writing does a fine job detailing the pathology of a psychopath. World War II was such a huge conflict it acts as the perfect stalking ground for a crazed killer. There are so many atrocities, occurring on both sides, it seems almost possible for a maniac to hide in plain sight.
Unsurprisingly, due to the dark nature of the subject matter, there are some pretty brutal moments. Be warned Pritchard doesn’t shy away from the horrors that occur during wartime. The violence committed, by both the lone psychopath and soldiers from each side are explored in depth. The physical and mental after effects of the fighting have left their mark and changed many in ways they could have never imagined.
This is the first novel featuring the character of Silas Payne, and it strikes me that the aftermath of such a turbulent conflict is the ideal setting for further tales of horrific crime. Watching Payne pull together the random pieces of evidence and making sense of it all is engrossing stuff. I rattled through the entire novel in a couple of sittings. Pritchard leaves some tantalizing suggestions towards the end of the novel that this is not the last investigation for the Inspector, I do hope he’ll return.
Werewolf is a good example of how successful fiction can be when blending together a couple of genres, in this case crime and historical fiction. Matthew Pritchard has taken the facts surrounding the phenomena of the Nazi resistance fighters known as Werewolves and has used their existence as a jumping off point to create an intelligent, engrossing thriller. Crafting a tale that highlights a little known element of the second World War he has created a novel perfect for fans of history and crime alike.
Werewolf is published by Salt Publishing and is available now.