It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler’s 75th birthday. Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin’s most prestigious suburb. As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich. And, with the Gestapo just one step behind, March, together with an American journalist, is caught up in a race to discover and reveal the truth – a truth that has already killed, a truth that could topple governments, a truth that will change history. Goodreads.
What do you do if you devote your life to discovering criminals, and it gradually occurs to you that the real criminals are the people you work for? What do you do when everyone tells you not to worry, you can’t do anything about it, it was a long time ago? I suppose you go crazy.
What would you do if you were loitering around the bookstore and saw one bright red book on one of the shelves with the Parteiadler (sans the Nazi logo) on its cover? Walk towards it and check what the book is about, wouldn’t you? Well, that’s what I did. So, point for this book for making me walk towards it, only to discover that the author was Robert Harris; of which I have enjoyed two of his other books, The Ghost and Pompeii. What I didn’t know was that this was actually his first book, and it was the 20th anniversary edition of the book. So, let’s do a recap of the cover; a catching colour? Check! A simple yet very bold typeface for the title? Check. An alternate history where the Nazi won WWII? Yeah, totally was going to read this book.
My first Robert Harris book was actually The Ghost, which happens to be his sixth book. I was mesmerised by the story and I really didn’t expect that ending and the plot twist! But, hey, I’m not here to talk about The Ghost, I’m here to talk about Fatherland. But, see, the problem is that the moment I read Fatherland and was introduced to Xavier March, I automatically felt a certain familiar feeling. As the story progresses and I start to feel that March is sniffing into things bigger than he could handle, I immediately was reminded of our nameless narrator from The Ghost. That being said, my whole outlook towards Fatherland just shifted from, “oh this seems to be quite an interesting story“, into “oh dear what have I gotten myself into? I’m bloody scared for March now.”
This is such an amazing story telling, one minute you’re scared half to death, and the next you’re feeling an amazing adrenaline rush for March’s investigation and race against the time. But, what’s amazing is that this is not just a story about killing and finding the bad guy, this is also about politics, about being lost, about not feeling like you belong to where you are currently. It’s amazing in the way that I had a hard time finishing the book because I was scared shitless.
Oh man! Oh man! Everytime I read this book, I fear for Xavier March. Every single time. It’s like that man doesn’t even know what’s good for him. I think he lack such drama flare in his life that he has to be sniffing and barking at all the wrong trees. But at the same time, March is your classic misunderstood good guy whose entire life revolves around work and nothing else. I’m a bit disappointed that March has to have that really impractical attraction to Charlie, but hey we can’t always get what we want, can we?
The same goes for Charlotte “Charlie” Maguire, she’s your classic female character that is still young but yearns for adventure and what the world can offer for her. It’s amazing that she is also a smart person and keen in being part of something, even after knowing it is dangerous, but sadly Charlie does not have a lasting impression on me.
But, damn you to hell Max Jaeger! How could you? You tricked me! I was rooting for you. Your friendship and loyalty to March was the highlight of the book for me. You gave me hope that something good could happen for March. Oh, and don’t get me started on Odilo Globocnik aka Globus, the fruit of my nightmare. I am just glad that the book is finished and now I can have a good sleep without Globus lurking in the back.
But at least we still have our good old friend, Rudolf “Rudi” Halder. I think Xavi and Rudi had the best Bromance, if it was even a thing back then.
If you enjoy historical fiction, or in this case an alternate historical fiction, I would totally recommend this book. It might not always be enjoyable, because at the same time this was also a thriller book. But this book has everything that could hook you up, even as you are scared shitless at the same time. It has intrigue, politics, diplomacy, murder, stolen art, and characters that would drive you insane over how angry and scared you are of and for them.
Author: Robert Harris
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Thriller, Mystery