Friday, April 6, 2012

Review: Voices of the Dead by Peter Leonard

Voices of the Dead
by Peter Leonard
Release Date: January 17th, 2012
2012 The Story Plant
Ebook Edition:  312 Pages
ISBN: 978-1611880328
Genre: Fiction / Thriller

4 / 5 Stars

Detroit, 1971. Harry Levin, scrap metal dealer and holocaust survivor, learns that his daughter has been killed in a car accident. Travelling to Washington DC, he's told by Detective Taggart that the German diplomat, who was drunk, has been released and afforded immunity; he will never face charges. So Harry is left with only one option - to discover the identity of this man, follow him back to Munich and hunt him down. The first of a two-hander, Peter Leonard's new novel is a classic cat-and-mouse thriller. Told with swagger, brutal humour and not a little violence, it follows a good man who is forced to return to the horrors of his past.

My Thoughts
At first, I wasn't sure what to think of Harry Levin, a survivor of the Holocaust, and a man looking to revenge the death of his daughter by a diplomat with international immunity.  As the events unfolded with whirlwind intensity, and Harry lands himself in the middle of a plot the likes of which he had no idea, his personality and convictions slowly drew me in, and I continued to read with horror the cat-and-mouse chase game by an author with the ability to slowly draw you in without you realizing it until you have no choice but to read feverishly until the end to find out what happens.

Voices of the Dead was an intense read and I had to constantly remind myself that the setting takes place in 1971, a time when the events of World War II were still fresh in a lot of people's minds and the Holocaust was not a thing of the distant past for many of the survivors.  Harry himself was a Dachau survivor and witnessed a devastating event as a young teenager that would have far-reaching effects on his own life and affect the choices he would make as an adult, especially as he was thrown into events after the death of his daughter.  Heading back Germany with the intent to kill the man who killed his daughter landed him in the middle of something he didn't expect and teams up with a reporter seeking to reveal the names of the existing Nazi war criminals, some of whom are still exacting revenge on the Jews today.  I thought Mr. Leonard did an amazing job portraying the lives of the Jewish people during World War II in a series of flashbacks through Harry's eyes as well as through the eyes of a serial killer who was a member of the Nazi political party; it gives the reader an understanding of both characters even though some of the flashbacks may be unsettling.  

There are many elements in this novel that make it an excellent thriller such as a main character who is incredibly stubborn and makes rash decisions that land him in lot of trouble, incredible coincidences, subtleties in the plot that the reader needs to pay attention to, convoluted plotlines at times, and interesting and quirky personalities.  I will admit that I wasn't overly crazy about Harry in the beginning as his descriptions about his sexual life, especially concerning his neighbour, I thought were completely unnecessary, but he did grow on me.  I just thought the crudeness wasn't necessary to the plotline as it stands just fine on its own without having to add to it with these unnecessary comments. 

Voices of the Dead was a compulsive read that when once started was difficult to put down.  I also thought Mr. Leonard handled the material in a very sensitive way, with a genuine respect for the people and history, as this was a very difficult time period and it so often goes the other way, where you can feel the bias in the novel towards a particular group of people.  I didn't get this sense at all from reading this novel and felt like he was telling it like it was with no genuine disrespect for any particular group of people and I liked that.  With a convoluted plot, intriguing characters, and a twist at the end that I really liked, Voices of the Dead will appeal to readers who enjoy a good thriller.   


  1. Haven't heard of this one before. Sounds intense with lots to keep the mind on edge.

  2. Thank you for your detailed and well written review and post. I agree with you, the author did do an extraordinary job weaving a horrific time in our history into a fictional story.

  3. I haven't heard of this before either. Excellent review!