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by J. Sydney Jones
Mysterious Press.com/Open Road, October 2013
302 pages
ISBN: 1480426911

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

As RUIN VALUE opens, it is the fall of 1945 and we are in the destroyed city of Nuremberg Germany. The war-crimes trials, which have captured the attention of the entire world, are about to begin, with lawyers, judges and journalists gathering in the surviving buildings. Yet other crimes are being committed in the darkened, bombed out streets of the city. A serial killer is on the loose, slitting the necks of lone victims and leaving cryptic notes in their hands. There seems to be a connection between the victims and the black market, but it is a slight one at best. There may also be a connection with a group of young Germans who call themselves Werwolves, and who are not reconciled to Germany’s defeat.

Captain Nate Morgan, a former New York City homicide detective and intelligence agent, is in charge of the investigation. He finds a German policeman to help him, Chief Inspector Werner Beck. Morgan must first get Beck released from prison, where he is being held on charges of cooperating with the Nazis. Beck may have been set up by his enemies, but in any case, Morgan needs help in understanding crime in the German streets. Little by little, they put together the clues and create an idea of the perpetrator of these crimes. They unravel the code in the notes and discover a pattern in the killings. Even with this information, they are at first unsuccessful in stopping the murderer. They are also being thwarted by another policeman, Chief Inspector Manhof, although why is not at first clear.

Meanwhile, Kate Wallace, a British journalist, is trying to find a story of her own worth pursuing in Nuremberg. She learns of the murders and tries to cover the investigation. This leads her to a relationship with Morgan that seems bound to lead to distrust and trouble. Kate is housed in the villa of the wealthy Baroness von Prandtauer whose live story seems cryptic and mysterious. She befriends Kate, but all is not what it appears to be.

The author of this novel is a strong writer who is able to recreate the atmosphere and details of a post-WWII German city. His characters are well drawn for the most part, although there were a couple who seemed to be undefined. In this post-modern world, the reader is ready for more ambiguity in an ending than Jones provides, but the fact that he is able to wrap his story up neatly should not discourage one from the enjoyment of reading this book.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, September 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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