Popular culture – especially cinema – has not been kind to the humble German soldier. They are usual portrayed as nameless, generic baddies who act as little more than grey-uniformed cannon-fodder for heroes to dispatch. The dramatic range required of the thousands of extras who have played German soldiers on screen can be reduced to ‘look menacing and fall over when shot’. Even when they are given dialogue, it rarely extends beyond barking orders at each other or at unfortunate Allied prisoners. Nuance and character development are limited, to say the least.
This helps make Gregor Reinhardt, the main character in Where God does not Walk, such an intriguing literary creation: a sympathetic protagonist who is firmly part of the Germany military machine. For once, we get to go behind enemy lines and see things from a German perspective.
Reinhardt begins the story as a young lieutenant on the Western Front in the final year of the First World War. When one of his men is accused of an act of terrorism against his own officers, Reinhardt tries to piece together what has happened and gradually unravels a conspiracy which reaches the upper echelons of the German army.
Part detective story, part war story, Where God does not Walk evokes the carnage of the trenches in brutal detail; descriptions of bomb sites are particularly visceral. As we follow Reinhardt’s search for the truth we are confronted by themes of loyalty, leadership and disillusionment.
Sadly, due to personal circumstances, I have not yet had a chance to finish this book, but I look forward to reading the final chapters over Christmas. Thus far, I have found it engrossing, partly for the cast of interesting characters and sharp dialogue, but equally for the rich historical background against which the events unfold.
Note: Where God does not Walk is the fourth book in the Gregor Reinhardt series by Luke McCallin. The first three novels are all set during – or in the aftermath of – the Second World War, while this book takes us back to Reinhardt’s time as a junior officer during the First World War. It can be read as a stand-alone novel or as a prequel to the first three books.
I received a copy of this book from Oldcastle Books and No Exit Press. All opinions are my own.