The Constant Soldier
by William Ryan
William Ryan has built a reputation as a crime writer who fuses convincing historical fiction with intelligent, elegantly constructed thrillers. He has now swapped his impressive plots in Stalinist Russia for a standalone set in Germany towards the end of the second world war. Injured fighting the “Ivans” on the Eastern Front, Paul Brandt is discharged from the German army, and returns to his home village in Upper Silesia. He finds it horribly transformed in his absence. “The Glintzmanns have moved away,” Paul thinks about a local Jewish family who are missing. Almost as terrifying is what has moved in: a rest hut for SS officers who have been conducting atrocities at Auschwitz. The tension builds as the Soviets approach the village on their way to liberating Germany. What stays in the mind are some extraordinary scenes, for example, when a terrifying SS officer asks a female Jewish prisoner whether she loves or hates the Germans. The Constant Soldier sounds like a Le Carré, and offers an appropriately engaged examination of war’s horrors, and the price paid by everyone swept up in them.