Merikay, from Popcorn Reads, has graciously given us permission to repost her review of Voices of the Dead. You can find the review in its entirety below and make sure you visit Popcorn Reads as well!
We’re delighted to be a stop on Peter Leonard’s Virtual Book Tour for his newest novel, Voices of the Dead. If that name sounds familiar, it should because Peter is the son of Elmore Leonard. As Peter’s prior novels have demonstrated, the apple doesn’t fall far from the literary tree. Voices of the Dead is a psychological thriller that makes for one hell of a roller coaster ride, and I am looking forward to sharing it with you! We’re also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of Voices of the Dead!
“Elmore Leonard is a tough act to follow, but son Peter is off to a terrific start.” Carl Hiaasen
Voices of the Dead is a departure from Peter Leonard’s prior novels, which were more whodunits than thrillers. This novel is a full-tilt no-holds-barred thriller that starts gaining suspense on Page 1 and just increases in tension all the way to the end. I found it shared some qualities I’ve come to expect in thrillers written by some of my favorite European authors.
This is definitely a novel in which you have to buy the premise to buy the bits. The biggest obstacle for me was buying the premise, i.e., believing that a respected member of Germany’s parliament in the 1970’s could be such a villain without being exposed and reviled. The people I know who are German are very outspoken and wouldn’t stand for such a thing if they knew about it, and I decided that was key. If 90% of the German people didn’t know that he was who he really was, only then would he have the impunity to act as he did. I did some online research in the Neo Nazi (skinhead) movement in Germany, which was enlightening. Although I read a number of articles and websites, here’s a link to the Wikipedia article. Once I allowed myself to accept the premise, everything else flowed.
Ernst Hess, a German parliament member, is in Washington DC, staying at the German embassy. He makes it his priority when traveling to find at least one family of Jews and kill them. His Washington, DC kill is a Jewish dentist and his wife.
“The phone’s in here.” The dentist started to move.
Hess removed the Luger from the pocket of his suit jacket, and aimed it at Goldman.
The dentist put his hands up. “Whoa. Easy.”
“Who is in the house?”
“Just the two of us.”
“Are you expecting anyone?”
He shook his head.
“Tell her to come in here,” Hess said.
It’s 1971 and Holocaust survivor Harry Levin is a successful scrap metal dealer in Detroit. He’s a widower who’s very proud of his only child, a daughter, Sara, who attends Georgetown University. He’s not prepared to get the phone call no parent ever wants to get. His daughter has been killed in an auto accident by a drunk driver. When Harry flies to Washington, DC, he learns her car was broadsided by a car driven by someone with diplomatic immunity, someone from the German consulate.
“It’s out of our hands,” Taggart said.
“You didn’t arrest him?” Henry said, shaking his head.
“I shouldn’t be telling you this —” He paused. “We held him till this morning, and I heard he was still drunk when we let him go.”
“You mean he’s out on bail?”
“There was no bail. Guy from the Chief of Protocol’s Office and a lawyer from the Office of the Legal Adviser got here at six thirty this morning, and we had no choice but to let him go. This guy’s connected, somebody important.”
While eating dinner after talking to DC police detective Taggart, Harry overhears men joking in German at a nearby table, realizes they’re from the German consulate, and realizes one of them is joking about the accident involving his daughter. Harry is livid with anger to say the least. How dare anyone joke about murdering his daughter?!
“So you’re from Munich?” Hess said.
“I was born there,” Harry said, “In 1927. I remember Hitler driving around the neighborhood in his open car, giving speeches”…
“That was an unprecedented time in our history. Unparalleled,” Hess said. Looking like he wanted to relive the past, pumped all of a sudden, grinning, recalling the good ole’ days…”And where do you live now?”
“Detroit…I sell scrap metal,” Henry said, still in German.
Hess said, “What brings you to Washington?”
“I came to see my daughter,” Henry said, holding him in his gaze. “I had to identify her body.”
Hess looked nervous now, face turning serious.
“You killed her last night, and you’re out having a good time,” he said.
Harry is determined to track down the man who killed his daughter and realizes that to do that, he will have to return to Germany, something he swore he would never do. To hunt Hess down, Harry will have to find allies from the Jewish community in Munich, confront his own past there including what happened to him, his family, his friends, his neighbors, and his home when he was just a teenager.
Harry discovers pieces of his past that still haunt him and allies where he least expects them, including a jive-talking ex-soldier from Detroit. Because Harry has lived in the U.S. since he escaped Germany, he knows nothing of the undercurrents still existing in Germany, including well-organized skinhead groups and Hess’ connection to them. Harry runs into a much bigger and much more organized danger than just one person. What Harry doesn’t realize until it’s too late is that he is putting everyone he contacts in the middle of a bulls eye, bringing great danger to them all. Will Harry be able to overcome the past that haunts him? Can he and/or anyone around him survive long enough to track Hess down? Will Harry get his opportunity for revenge, and should he take it?
Harry is one of those characters your heart goes out to and who you want to see succeed, whether you agree with his methods or not. Hess is the epitome of the villain you love to hate, and even if you’re not a vengeful person, nothing done to him seems like it could be bad enough to avenge the horrendous things he’s done in his lifetime. There are a number of other characters who make this a moving and exciting story; however, I’m not going to say who they are to avoid spoilers and because you need to keep guessing whether people are who they present themselves as being. *cue the evil book reviewer’s laugh*
Voices of the Dead is a non-stop roller coaster ride from Page 1. Peter Leonard drops us into the story and it never stops moving from the moment until the very end. There are enough twists and turns to please anyone’s need for a twisty storyline. It is a serial killer psychological thriller — a catch-me-if-you-can story told during the early 1970’s with flashbacks to the Holocaust when Harry and his family are taken to Dachau — when Harry is the only one to escape alive. If you enjoy a good thrill like I do then I suspect you are going to get as wrapped up in Voices of the Dead as I did.
Peter Leonard is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of his works, including Voices of the Dead. You can learn more at our website.