Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Visible Darkness-Michael Gregorio

A Visible Darkness
Michael Gregorio
Minotaur, Apr 2009, $25.95
ISBN 9780312544355

In 1808, Prussia is a cesspool of corpses as the French army has devastated the locals. In that environ, Prussian magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis, heeding the advice of his late mentor Immanuel Kant, tests the impact of the dead rotting in fields on the health of the living. He believes the populace including the invaders faces health risks and plans to use empirical evidence to prove his case so the French will clean the environment.

French Colonel Antoine Claudet asks Stiffeniis to investigate the murder of Kati Rodendahl, a Prussian woman collecting amber to sell to the occupying army because Napoleon wants it. With a child due shortly and wanting to be with his wife and their family, Stiffeniis reluctantly agrees. With able assistance he begins his inquiry, but more homicides follow that leaves the Prussian knowing he will miss the birth of his child while the bureaucracy wants the case dropped in a charged atmosphere of hate and distrust between the occupiers and the occupied.

The third Stiffeniis police procedural (see CRITIQUE OF CRIMINAL REASON and DAYS OF ATONEMENT) is a superb historical piece that brings to life (and death) Prussia under French occupation. The story line has themes that apply today in the Middle East as Stiffeniis believes the motive is to assassinate those people considered traitors for seeming to support the occupiers even if it is just to feed your family. Readers will relish this powerful tale that resonates with its gloom and doom that once again parallels early nineteenth century Prussia with 2006 Iraq.
Harriet Klausner