Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: 'Lost Kin' by Steve Anderson

Oregon author Steve Anderson is a noteworthy young author, a man with history in his veins and wars in his imagination. To date his novels have dealt with WW II in the Germany setting and he knows that period and that country well (he as lived in Germany as a Fulbright Fellow and his knowledge of the atmosphere and landscape of that country are evident): he has recently become a translator of German to English books whose focus is on crime and mystery. But Anderson has a richer and more entertaining background than simply a fine historical novelist: he has backpacked into Eastern Europe when the Berlin Wall fell, written narrative nonfiction, short stories and screenplays, worked in advertising, marketing, and journalism, and has been a waiter, a language instructor, a freelance copywriter. Full life? Enough to make his canvas for his books well prepared with personal gesso.

Steve's ability to transport the reader in time, under conditions most of us have never experienced, he manages from the first paragraph of LOST KIN, a continuation of his Kasper Brothers novels to transport us dramatically: ‘Harry Kaspar knew he shouldn’t be heading into a bombed-out neighborhood with a plainclothes Munich cop he didn’t know, not alone, not with night falling so fast. It wasn’t standard operating procedure. He took the risk because plainclothes had a hot tip he could not ignore. “There has been an incident, sir,” the cop had said. “Your brother may be involved.” A destroyed city street at dusk harbored an urgent sort of menace, like a dense old forest just ravaged by giant wild beasts that could return at any moment. The larger ruins loomed as jagged high glaciers about to break apart and plummet down.’ ‘His brother might be implicated in a crime. Harry did have an only brother, Maximilian. Max. But the fool had returned to their native Germany in 1939, and no one had heard from him in years.’

Steve’s gift for penning synopses is always on target: ‘Occupied Munich, 1946: Irina, a Cossack refugee, confesses to murdering a GI, but American captain Harry Kaspar doesn’t buy it. As Harry scours the devastated city for the truth, it leads him to his long-lost German brother, Max, who returned to Hitler’s Germany before the war.Max has a questionable past, and he needs Harry for the cause that could redeem him: rescuing Irina’s stranded clan of Cossacks who have been disowned by the Allies and are now being hunted by Soviet death squads—the cold-blooded upshot of a callous postwar policy. As a harsh winter brews, the Soviets close in and the Cold War looms, Harry and Max desperately plan for a risky last-ditch rescue on a remote stretch of the German-Czech border. A mysterious visitor from Max’s darkest days shadows them. Everyone is suspect, including Harry’s lover, Sabine, and Munich detective Hartmut Dietz—both of whom have pledged to help. But before the Kaspar brothers can save the innocent victims of peace, grave secrets and the deep contempt sown during the war threaten to damn them all.’
Few writers can muster the veracity of wartime and atmospheres that blend and contrast the way Steve Anderson can. He’s a master of his medium. Grady Harp, March 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.