So, here we have the former Nazi leader sitting in his cell at Nuremburg awaiting trial for war crimes. The book takes up back on a journey to Ernst's youth and we follow how he got involved with the SS and ultimately the Nazi power brokers. The story is told in the first person, which makes it all the more relatable, especially given that the character we saw in The Girl From Berlin, was very much an enigma. You want to hate the man responsible for sending so many people to Gas Chambers, but deep down you know you can't. There was always a hidden depth to Kaltenbrunner and this book begins to explore those depths and bring them out.
The author's technique of flashing from 1946 at Nuremburg backward and forward to Keltenbrunner's youth was, at times, a little dizzying, but I did like her method of linking the two periods together in the reader's minds. The last thought of one time period often became the first thought of the different time period. Very clever and very well done.
So, the question arises; was the Austrian as good as The Girl From Berlin series? The simple answer is it couldn't be because Annelise was never really a part of this first book on Kaltenbrunner's life and Annelise was, in my mind, the star of the series. I have no doubt she will play a greater role in Book two of the Austrian and I look forward to that.
One of the things I've admired and continue to admire about Midwood's books is her ability to give a human face and human emotions to a group of characters that history consigned to the wastebasket of humanity as butchers, murderers, and soul-less creatures. She shows Kaltenbrunner in his frailties, his weaknesses, but also in his dignity and his humanity - a victim of circumstances that ruled Europe at that time. As an anti-hero, he still comes across as a man with scruples and morals - a very hard act for any author to ascribe to a convicted war criminal.
As with all of Midwood's books, this is a winner and I can only highly recommend it. I was glad I'd read The Girl From Berlin first, though, as it gave much more sense and placement of the story. Roll on Book No.2 of The Austrian. I'm looking forward to reading it soon. Five stars, as always to Midwood's fine stories.