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  • Reviews for A Dark Song of Blood by Ben Pastor
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Reviews for A Dark Song of Blood by Ben Pastor
Pastor's atmospheric third Martin Bora mystery (after 2012's Liar Moon) finds the German counterintelligence officer in Rome in January 1944. There Bora teams with Insp. Sandro Guidi of the Italian police to investigate the suspicious death of German embassy secretary Magda Reiner, who fell from her apartment window. Since the prime suspect, Rodolfo Merlo, the victim's lover, is head of the National Confederation of Fascist Unions, pursuing the case against Merlo is complicated. Meanwhile, two more high-profile city residents—one a cardinal, the other a society woman—die under unusual circumstances. The whodunit aspect balances logic and surprise nicely, and the puzzle is enhanced by the setting, perfectly rendered by Pastor, and her depiction of an honorable man dedicated to solving crime in the midst of war. Readers will look forward to the next in the series, Tin Sky, which takes place in Ukraine after the battle of Stalingrad. - Publishers Weekly
‘Italy-born Ben Pastor (aka Maria Verbena Volpi) worked for decades as a university professor in Vermont before returning to her birthplace. In 1999 she brought crime-fiction fans Lumen, her intelligently crafted novel set in German-occupied Poland during World War II and introducing Martin-Heinz von Bora, an aristocratic Wehrmacht officer inspired by the real-life Claus von Stauffenberg, who helped lead a 1944 assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler. That was followed by Liar Moon (2001), in which Bora—injured on the Russian front, but still alive, and aware of how carefully he must step in order to perform his duties without forsaking his humanity—investigates the killing of a prominent fascist in northern Italy. A Dark Song of Blood finds him in Rome in 1944. As Allied forces encroach on that “open city,” Bora must come to terms with his wife's decision to leave him, at the same time as he and an Italian inspector try to unravel three murders, including that of a German embassy secretary who “accidentally” tumbled to her death. The historical milieu of these books is grim, but Pastor's character examinations are precise and engrossing.' - Kirkus
‘The American author Ben Pastor has produced a fine series of novels featuring a conscience-stricken Wehrmacht officer in the Second World War. Her latest, A Dark Song of Blood (Bitter Lemon £8.99/ebook £8.99, ST Bookshop price £8.54), places Major Martin von Bora in Rome in 1944. While each day brings news of allied advances, Bora is ordered to look into the death of a secretary at the German embassy. The investigation brings him into conflict with the SS, but he also has to weigh the significance of one unexplained death against a mass execution carried out by the Germans on the outskirts of Rome. This is historical crime fiction at its best, vividly re-creating the atmosphere of a city occupied by an increasingly desperate army. ‘ - Sunday Times
‘A German officer in the Wehrmacht during the dying months of the Nazi occupation of Rome is not an obvious choice as a hero of crime fiction, but in Ben Pastor's A Dark Song of Blood, Major Martin Bora dispels all doubts. Handsome, war-wounded, unlucky in love, cultured and often insubordinate, Bora is ordered to solve three murders, including that of a cardinal. Occasionally supported by the uneasy Italian Inspector Sandro Guidi, Bora, dreaming of a war-free future, moves morosely among Italian society and the soon to be defeated German occupiers, Pastor writes with feeling and perception, and creates a wonderfully moody atmosphere. She deserves greater attention.' - Times
‘Our book today is Ben Pastor's A Dark Song of Blood, her third murder mystery starring Nazi Wehrmacht officer Martin Bora (the first two were Lumen and Liar Moon). The book is out now in a very sturdy paperback from Bitter Lemon Press, and it makes for a very absorbing – although very dark – reading experience. It's a tour through Dante's Hell, only with no Virgil as a guide and every anguished soul a suspect in the death of every other anguished soul. The setting isRome in the early months of 1944, with Nazi control over the city slipping a bit more every day, with Italian partisan attacks growing in scope and effectiveness, and it's into this tense and attenuated atmosphere the we follow our hero, the aristocratic Bora, wounded and doubting everything, as he begins to investigate the death of German Embassy Secretary Magda Reiner. The case brings the grim and taciturn Martin Bora into an uneasy alliance with Italian police inspector Sandro Guildi, and as suspicions start to swirl around Fascist official Ras Merlo, both men are dragged into a case that's being watched with deeply conflicted interest by all the powers in the city, most certainly including the Church, which has always had a problematic relationship with their Fascist overlords. A conversation Bora has with crusty old Cardinal Borromeo shows Pastor's extremely honed ability to let spikey tensions ripple underneath the surface: “I believe I'm telling the cardinal nothing new [Bora says] if I assure him that the German Army is not pleased with any interim government.” “You'd rather have the city to yourselves?” “We'd rather have no interference from PAI and what else remains of Fascist police units.” “That's neither here nor there. We expect you to curb the zeal of the Blackshirts left in town – even though I'm a Fascist of sorts myself. The Church was Fascist long beforeIl Duce planned his ‘March on Rome'. We marched on it in AD 64 with Peter and Paul at the lead.” Borromeo rang a bell on his desk. At the timid appearance of a cleric on the threshold, he merely gestured. Shortly thereafter, a tray with a coffee urn and cups was brought in. “I don't trust people who don't like espresso.” He ensured that Bora should accept the drink. “Your ambassador gets along with us – why shouldn't the army?” “The army is not involved in politics, Cardinal.” “But the SS is. The Gestapo is. What you're telling me is that you Germans will not curb any excesses by our police forces, or yours.” One of the pleasures of mystery fiction is the interplay of investigation and authority (indeed, an old friend of mine, a dedicated mystery reader, often used to say the most interesting part of any murder investigation was “the fellow who can call it off”), and that pleasure is at its strongest in these Martin Bora mysteries, since the authority backing him is not only corrupt itself but hated by him – and in this latest volume, even that dark authority is frittering away. Bora and Guildi must doggedly pursue their complicating murder investigation against the indifference of all parties involved – after all, how important could a single murder be when weighed against whole societies trembling on the brink of destruction? It serves to bring the whole question of sleuthing into almost bitter relief. Pastor's novels are all so leanly intelligent that they're a joy to re-read (she knows exactly how to temper the bleak drive of her narratives with quieter moments; “By the cessation of quick clouds in front of Bora's face, he might be holding his breath,” she tells us at one point, “In fact, he said nothing whatever. Guidi looked down the dark, wide emptiness of the street. He smelled the night air, bitter and already green”), and a good deal of that joy in this case comes from the fact that our hero is much more alone than he himself would like to be. The implied comforts of the police procedural are absent from these books – the institutional powers are too worried about their own tomorrow to care very much about any single murder victim's yesterday, which sharpens all the more our appreciation of the man who does worry. I don't know much about Bitter Lemon Press, but I can't recommend these books strongly enough.' - Stevereads
‘This is what genre fans would call - rightly - a history-mystery. The biggest mystery, however, is why it has taken ten years for this splendid thriller to be published in the UK and with a change of title from the original "Kaputt Mundi" which is a fabulous pun given the novel's setting: Rome in 1944 in the months leading up to the city's liberation from the Germans and their remaining Fascist allies. It is the third in Pastor's excellent series featuring the wounded, aristocratic German army officer Martin von Bora as a reluctant detective investigating three suspicious deaths in a time and place where death is common place. Having a "good German" hero during the Second World War brings immediate comparison with Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series and although different in style and pace, the Bora books certainly hold their own. Pastor's writing, emotions and attention to period detail, however, stand comparison with the European spy stories of Alan Furst, which is a pretty exclusive club to be a member of. As with Furst, there are passages, often doom-filled poignant scenes, which stay long in the mind after finishing the book. In A Dark Song of Blood, there is a section where Bora meets his estranged wife and the result is absolutely heart-breaking, and also a supremely tense race-against-time to rescue his Italian policeman side-kick from a mass execution (a true incident) by the SS in retaliation for partisan attacks. Ben (Verbena) Pastor, an Italian, is pitch-perfect when it comes not only to her historical settings, but also to the psychology and frailties of a large cast of predominantly male characters (soldiers, political satraps and Vatican cardinals), though her female characters are equally well-defined and memorably tinged with sadness. There is a fourth Bora novel (The Tin Sky) currently only available in Italian. Will somebody please make sure I don't have to wait for ten years for that one! - Mike Ripley
‘Here we find ourselves pitched into an increasingly confident area of historical mystery. The conventional mystery or thriller writer picks a time of relative calm as the setting. This leaves the history as contextual background information, with the foreground free for the hero to investigate the wrongdoing. But some authors prefer times of great conflict as the setting, and the period just before, during, and after World War II is proving a fruitful area for authors to explore. J. Robert Janes has a long-running series set in Occupied France featuring Hermann Kohler of the Gestapo and Jean-Louis St-Cyr of the French Sûreté. The interest, of course, lies in the question of whether St-Cyr is a collaborator and therefore worthy of contempt, or does he earn some latitude because he pursues wrongdoers regardless of nationality or status? Philip Kerr also has a long-running series featuring Bernie Gunther, a homicide detective. The first book starts in 1936 at the time of the Olympics, then moves forward to 1938 with him given the temporary rank ofKriminalkommissar in Heydrich's state Security Service, and later moves into the war years and the period immediate afterwards. Luke McCallin has his second book featuring Captain Gregor Reinhardt coming out later this year and J Sydney Bounds has one book set in post-war Nuremberg, see Ruin Value. A Dark Song of Blood is the third book in the series featuring Martin von Bora, an officer in the Wehrmacht who continues to work with Italian police inspector Sandro Guildi (in the first book, Bora is teamed with Father John Malecki, a Polish-American priest working directly for the Vatican). The consistent themes through the three books are dark and complex. First in Poland and then the two remaining books in Italy, we're required to think about how different groups form and maintain alliances. Standing slightly outside the more conventional political power structure, there's the overarching relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the Third Reich. As part of the plan to deChristianise Germany, catholics had been specifically targeted which led to the increasing marginalisation of catholics during the 1930s. However, the relationship with the Papal See was complicated when Italy formally joined the Axis. As Germany began its expansion across national borders, it immediately found itself having to hold areas still deeply religious. As if invasion was not hard enough for the occupied people to stomach, it would further antagonise locals if priests were arrested and the people were prevented from worship. Much of this book is taken up with Germany's difficulty in reconciling its presence in Italy with the entrenched power of the Pope and his cardinals. Bora is a useful honest broker because he's a trusted catholic whose university study was guided by a man now serving as a cardinal. This book is set in 1944 as the Allies are pressing their advance through Italy towards Rome. So the alliance with the Italian Fascists is failing as patriotic fervour dims in line with military failures. The relationship between the Wehrmacht and the SS is also strained as the practice of retaliating for German deaths by executing multiples of local citizens is encouraging the emergence of increasingly confident resistance fighters. Final efforts to deport Jews and others deemed socially undesirable are also producing real political disagreements between the different groups. It would be a serious understatement to call this a time of danger and uncertainty. And Ben Pastor does not make the mistake of leaving these events in the background. In many senses, this is a work of military fiction or a political thriller which just happens to feature an army officer who gets sucked into investigating politically sensitive deaths. The initial hook for the investigators is the death of Magda Reiner who worked in the German Embassy as a secretary. She was found dead on the pavement outside her apartment block. It could have been suicide, but the Roman Chief of Police prefers that a political opponent be guilty of her murder. Much later there's what may be a murder-suicide with a society lady well-known for her charitable works found dead in bed with an elderly cardinal. Obviously all three deaths are sensitive albeit for different reasons. As a serving officer, Bora is already deeply committed to defending what Germany holds in Italy. The investigations must therefore be fitted around his military duties. He's also conscious of the fact that Germany will lose this fight and be forced out of Rome. If Guildi is positively involved in this investigation, he may be damned when the Allies take over and the locals can take their revenge against known collaborators. Independently, Guildi finds himself walking a narrow line through the infighting between the Italian factions as the Communists begin to take a more active role. In the end he will be faced with the difficult decision of whether to risk staying in Rome as the Allies arrive, or going north with the partisans. A Dark Song of Blood is a powerful novel about lives under pressure. With every individual wondering whether he or she will be able to survive, it falls to the few with a conscience and a sense of honour to defy the prevailing power structures and do what they believe to be right. Bora has been emotionally scared and physically damaged. He's no longer fit for active duty on the front line and so finds himself fighting a different type of war both with himself and many of those around him. As the novel progresses, he proves to be a proactive survivor, i.e. once he realises he's falling into the pit, he decides to fall with as much force as possible and hope to produce at least one small change for the better before he dies. The outcome for Rome as a city is a matter for history. The different outcomes for Bora and Guildi are completely fascinating, making this a genuinely impressive novel.' - Opionator
‘Ben Pastor's A Dark Song of Blood, slated for an April release from Bitter Lemon, is set in 1944 Nazi-occupied Rome. The book will be the third outing for Baron Martin von Bora, “an officer in the Wehrmacht torn between his sense of duty and his opposition to SS policies.” Bora's been assigned to Rome after running afoul of the Gestapo, and there he must solve three murders: those of a German embassy secretary, a Roman society matron, and a cardinal. Pastor observes that while, with the catastrophic loss of life, investigating a single death might appear “mundane, Bora considers every victim important.” She adds, “The tensions and excesses of a world war—the greatest crime of all—allow me to dig into my protagonist's seemingly absurd desire to do the right thing, even if and when no one else does.” - Publishers Weekly
‘In early 1944, the allies are fighting their way up the boot of Italy, and the German occupation of Rome can clearly only be sustained for a matter of months. Wehrmacht officer Martin Bora, assisted by Guidi of the Italian fascist police, is assigned to investigate the death of a German embassy secretary who fell from a hotel window. The dead girl had a busy social life, and the vested interests of several parties complicate the investigation. A second case then arises: an elderly cardinal and an aristocratic woman are found dead after an apparent murder/suicide. Bora, a Catholic who knew the cardinal well, is persuaded that the deaths were not what they appear. But with the allies closing in, finding the truth looks like a tall order. A Dark Song of Blood is the third Bora novel, and by 1944 Bora is physically and mentally under great strain. Damage to his hand gives him pain, he has barely recovered from a leg wound, and he has nightmares from his experience on the Russian front, where he saw his brother killed. But he maintains an iron discipline, and gains some relief from his love of Rome, a city that he knows well from his youth. The author's familiarity with the city comes through very visibly. What is most impressive, however, is the portrayal of the atmosphere in Rome at this particular time. The war has turned against the axis and few of the occupying forces can be unaware that they are living on borrowed time; something the locals also know. The partisans are getting bolder and massive German retaliation against hostages taken at every provocation. In this febrile environment Bora tries to sustain his ideas of honour and humanity against impossible odds. Intrigue is everywhere: within the German camp, the army the SS and the Gestapo are all at odds much of the time, and the Italian fascist remnant given official recognition but regarded with contempt. The Vatican is accorded formal respect but distrusted, for good reason - it is sheltering partisans. The relationship between Bora and Guidi reflects these strains, and is never close, although the actions of the pair show a mutual respect. The book is densely packed with the developments in the lives of the protagonists over a few months and in truth the criminal cases are merely a thread which bring Bora and Guidi into contact. The real story is that of principled and feeling men at a dramatic time in history, swept along by events while having to negotiate political currents that threaten to suck them under. A Dark Song of Blood is a densely-packed, complex and subtle book - something for grown-ups.' - Crime Review
‘Major Martin von Bora has been ordered to investigate not one but three murders. A daunting prospect at the best of times Bora has been given his orders during the final days of the Nazi occupation of Rome in early 1944. As the allies close in on the Italian capital Bora must divide his attention between his military duties and solving the mystery of the murders. The first murder involves a German embassy secretary who has fallen to her death in mysterious circumstances. The others involve a Cardinal and a Roman society lady who have both been found dead at her apartment. Bora must work alongside Inspector Sandro Guidi of the Italian police in order to find the truth behind these crimes. Although both men find themselves in dire circumstances working under terrible pressures incredibly Rome is still the scene of glamorous and debauched parties organised by the feuding factions of the SS, Gestapo and the German Army. Bora is also simultaneously undergoing a personal crisis as his marriage finally crumbles under the pressures of war. Still nursing painful physical wounds from an earlier Partisan attack in Italy, Bora finds his sense of duty and emotional stamina tested to their limits. Under suspicion by the SS of having aided in the escape of Jewish prisoners and being targeted by the Italian partisans he is in constant danger of being shot by both sides. This is the third in the Martin Bora series by Ben Pastor and like its predecessors Lumen and Liar Moon is compelling and richly detailed. The external destruction of war is paralleled by the inner traumas of characters caught in an increasingly desperate and near apocalyptic situation. Once again Pastor succeeds in telling a complex and harrowing story that sensitively explores the moral grey areas of war.' - Crime Time
‘A Dark Song of Blood is the third book in the Martin Bora series of crime mysteries by Ben Pastor, set in 1944 in Rome as the Allies fight their way up the Italian peninsula, the German army, the Gestapo, and the SS vie for power, though their world is falling apart. In the middle of this chaotic time, three murders occur. Baron Martin von Bora, an officer in the Wehrmacht, is called upon to solve these cases. First, a German embassy secretary falls “accidentally” to her death. Following this, a cardinal and a society lady are also found dead. These events play out as the larger events of the war surround them. Readers might wish to try the two previous novels first, as the beginning of the third is somewhat difficult to get into. Characters appear quickly and in large numbers; determining their relationships to each other and to the plot is challenging. However, the plot contains enough twists to satisfy fans of this genre.' - historicalnovelsociety.org
A Dark Song of Blood by Ben Pastor [Maria Verbena Volpi] is grown up crime fiction, a fine book that raises difficult moral questions concerning loyalty to one's country, a cause and the church. The third book in the Major Martin Bora series finds the anguished war wounded officer in Rome during that period in 1944, when the Allies were battering the German defences round Monte Cassino, and shortly after the start of the book have landed at Anzio. It has been said that the Second World War was simple you shot everything in front off you. The situation in Rome is much more complex for the anti-Nazi Martin Bora. He mixes with the upper echelons of Italian society, and the Vatican hierarchy, but has to watch his back as Italian Fascists, German SS, Gestapo, the Resistance, and the Wehrmacht are all struggling for a fleeting advantage in a rapidly deteriorating situation. Martin Bora and Italian policeman Sandro Guidi must investigate the suspected murder of Magda Reiner, a German Embassy secretary, who has “accidentally” fallen from a fourth floor window to her death. Magda has had several lovers, and one of them Merlo is Secretary General of the National Union of Fascists. Dr Caruso the head of Rome's police tells Guidi…… “Keep looking into the dossier, there's plenty about His Excellency's goings-on. The Germans want his neck so prove he killed her.” When Bora's elderly university teacher now a cardinal is found with a Roman society lady in a compromising position, both shot dead, he has to examine his conscience and face the corruption all around him and investigate two more murders. As well as the relationship between the Third Reich and the Vatican, the fate of Rome's Jews, and the civil war in Italy, A Dark Song of Blood also deals with the less serious subjects of Sandro Guidi's lust for the mysterious and pregnant Francesca, Bora's rocky marriage to the ice queen Benedikta and his obsession with the glamorous Mrs Murphy. “Sometimes you leave people to set them free, as I did with your stepfather. Of course it was impossible, in our position, to stay married after Sarajevo started the Great War. It worked out for the best. He found your mother and married her happily, and I fell in love with D'Annunzio.” A Dark Song of Blood is one of the best books I have read this year, cleverly blending real life events and characters, such as Field Marshall Kesselring, in with the fictional narrative producing a work that is both a mystery and a worthy historical record.' Crime Scraps - Crime Scraps
'A Dark Song of Blood by Ben Pastor [Maria Verbena Volpi] is grown up crime fiction, a fine book that raises difficult moral questions concerning loyalty to one's country, a cause and the church. The third book in the Major Martin Bora series finds the anguished war wounded officer in Rome during that period in 1944, when the Allies were battering the German defences round Monte Cassino, and shortly after the start of the book have landed at Anzio. It has been said that the Second World War was simple you shot everything in front off you. The situation in Rome is much more complex for the anti-Nazi Martin Bora. He mixes with the upper echelons of Italian society, and the Vatican hierarchy, but has to watch his back as Italian Fascists, German SS, Gestapo, the Resistance, and the Wehrmacht are all struggling for a fleeting advantage in a rapidly deteriorating situation. Martin Bora and Italian policeman Sandro Guidi must investigate the suspected murder of Magda Reiner, a German Embassy secretary, who has “accidentally” fallen from a fourth floor window to her death. Magda has had several lovers, and one of them Merlo is Secretary General of the National Union of Fascists. Dr Caruso the head of Rome's police tells Guidi……“Keep looking into the dossier, there's plenty about His Excellency's goings-on. The Germans want his neck so prove he killed her.” When Bora's elderly university teacher now a cardinal is found with a Roman society lady in a compromising position, both shot dead, he has to examine his conscience and face the corruption all around him and investigate two more murders. As well as the relationship between the Third Reich and the Vatican, the fate of Rome's Jews, and the civil war in Italy, A Dark Song of Blood also deals with the less serious subjects of Sandro Guidi's lust for the mysterious and pregnant Francesca, Bora's rocky marriage to the ice queen Benedikta and his obsession with the glamorous Mrs Murphy. “Sometimes you leave people to set them free, as I did with your stepfather. Of course it was impossible, in our position, to stay married after Sarajevo started the Great War. It worked out for the best. He found your mother and married her happily, and I fell in love with D'Annunzio.” A Dark Song of Blood is one of the best books I have read this year, cleverly blending real life events and characters, such as Field Marshall Kesselring, in with the fictional narrative producing a work that is both a mystery and a worthy historical record.' - Crime Scraps
‘A DARK SONG OF BLOOD by Ben Pastor (Bitter Lemon Press 2014 trade paperback London/ New York). The third book in the author's excellent series featuring Major Martin Bora, an aristocratic officer in the German Army, takes place in German-occupied Rome from January 8 to June 4, 1944, the date of the withdrawal of German forces from the city. Bora is tasked with investigating three high-profile murders together with Roman police Inspector Sandro Guidi who had also worked with Bora in the prior novel, LIAR MOON. Bora becomes caught up in the power struggle between the German Army, the SS and the Gestapo while Guidi has to contend with competing factions within the Roman police as well as the Partisans and resistance. The Vatican also exerts its own power and influence over events. The author masterfully describes the complexity of life in occupied Rome as well as the personal and opposing tensions experienced by Bora and Guidi as they struggle to solve the crimes. This is mystery fiction, a war story and a historical novel tightly woven together by a superb storyteller. ‘ - Deadly Pleasures
'Selected among top 5 crime novels of 2014. Martin Bora returns in a tense hunt for a murderer set in Rome during the first six months of 1944. A mixture of terrible real life events and the personal problems of Martin and his Italian police colleague Guidi are told in an easy to read style. Considering the complexity of the situation with the Vatican, Wehrmacht, SS, Italian Fascists, and the Resistance all having a part to play Ben Pastor does a fine job in making the narrative so clear.' - Eurocrime
‘PREPARE FOR WAR because this historical novel set in Rome and Northern Italy in 1943 brings it to your door. Martin Bora is an aristocratic German officer in the Wehrmacht with a conscience. His job is to solve murders that could reflect badly on the Nazi regime with political repercussions, which I found ironic in the midst of all the barbaric actions of the SS. The first murder is a beautiful, young secretary who has fallen to her death from her bedroom window. Later, an eighty-year-old Catholic Cardinal and a Roman socialite are also murdered. Wild parties, opera performances, slaughters, spies, traitors and the problem of daily securing food in the midst of bombings complicate this extremely well written mystery. Real people like Field Marshal Kesselring and a future pope have a role as well as the Catholic Church. I do not think I have ever identified with a German protagonist before Bora. His character is wonderful. How difficult, yet how intelligent, he is. He has lines in the sand he does not cross. If you liked THE BOOK THIEF, you will find its match in A DARK SONG OF BLOOD. It is the third in a series. The first was LIAR MOON, the second LUMEN all taking place during the war.' - I Love a Mystery
‘In 1944 Rome, German Embassy Secretary Fraulein Magda Reiner falls from her apartment window to her death. Italian Police Inspector Sandro Guildi investigates although his superiors, fearing accusations of collaboration with the Nazis as the American military victory in Italy is assured rather soon, insist that National Confederation of Fascist Unions official Ras Merlo killed the now cremated woman. As Guildi looks into the homicide, he begins to believe someone framed Merlo. Wehrmacht Major Martin Bora surprisingly reappears in his life to assist on the inquiry, which concerns the cop as he does not want to be associated with a German when the Americans take the city. Bora's wife Benedikta arrives to inform him she filed for divorce as the war ended their five year marriage. While Bora feels gut punched though not shocked; at the boarding house where both reside Guildi meets and is attracted to Francesca Lippi. As the case turns even more complicated with additional killings and ties to the Vatican, Gestapo and other high ranking Germans; Rome increasingly turns violent with the Resistance mounting bolder assaults. The third Martin Bora WWII drama (see Liar Moon and Lumen) is an intriguing historical that uses a police procedural to enable readers to look inside the heads of those in Rome at a time when the Nazi control is almost over. Suffering from physical ailments and PTSD, Bora feels ancient due to being divided between his moral sense of right and wrong, and patriotism; while Guildi also wants to do the right thing but fears the consequences. Readers will relish this entry in one of the best WWII series.' - World of Romance
‘A Dark Song of Blood by Ben Pastor is the third novel to feature Martin von Bora, an officer in the Wehrmacht during World War II. We've now reached 1944 with the Allies working their way up the Italian peninsula towards Rome. Bora therefore has to balance his contribution to planning the defense (and, later, orderly retreat) and his desire to see justice done when three people are found dead in Rome.In many ways this is a historical novel dealing in some detail with the German army's slow defeat through attrition in men and equipment, the increasingly hostile attitude of the Italian civilian population, the tangled political situation involving the Vatican, and the internal strains between the Wehrmacht and the SS. In the midst of all this, Bora and an Italian detective, Sandro Guildi, wrestle with first one death, and then two others who may have died as a murder/suicide. Although this is a dark period of history, the book rather nicely captures the moral dilemmas of all the different groups as the Germans more obviously begin to lose the war. Even though some of the events described are unsettling, this is a fascinating and powerful book as one man does his best to do what's right.' - San Francisco Book Review
‘Pastor's portrait of Nazi-occupied Rome is nuanced and is colored with unique characters and their fascinating circumstances.In the third book of the Martin Bora series, Ben Pastor's A Dark Song of Blood follows Wehrmacht Captain Martin Bora to a city caught in a complicated web of power and threatened by upheaval. The investigation unfolds in an atmosphere where allies have revealed themselves as enemies, civilians are targets, and everybody must take sides. Pastor's historically competent novel takes readers into the world where an ancient city meets modern warfare and most peoplemare just trying to survive. The year is 1944; the city, Rome. German military command has taken over the best hotels and streets, subjugated municipal institutions, and imposed withering martial law on citizens. Now it's maneuvering to squash a strengthening local resistance movement, even as it hunkers down against the approaching Allied forces. Can the Italian civil investigator and the German aide to a Nazi general assigned to investigate a woman's murder find a killer in such a place? Can they be friends? Pastor's expertise is clearly in describing the politics, intrigue, and daily complications for anyone, winners or losers, participating in a foreign occupation during wartime. The lengthy cast of characters—including two rival cardinals, various SS officers and their aides, prostitutes, and Latin students—is burdensome, since this novel, while being most effectively historical fiction, is built around a mystery to be solved and each new name must be considered. The early chapters get bogged down in introductions and potential motivations, but the variety of characters and their adorning details serve to build an engaging context. The novel illuminates what a pair of silk stockings means to a young Italian girl, what sandbags mean to a general traveling by car outside city limits, and what unopened suitcases mean to the owners of a boardinghouse. Despite the novel's generous attention to people and place, Major Bora is unquestionably the star of this novel, and his role as noble servant to a threatened and oppressive regime puts him in constant danger. Above all, this novel is an adventure with a hero. A Dark Song of Blood will appeal to fans of wartime sagas, cross-genre adventures, and Old World settings.' - ForeWord Reviews
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