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The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell

A Jan Fabel thriller.

Jan Fabel is the Head of Polizei Hamburg’s Murder Commission. One of his first cases was that of a missing girl. Though there were various suspects for a possible abduction and murder the case was never solved. The girl, Monika Krone, a student at the time, is never found.

15 years later a body has been found, buried beneath a carpark. The victim seems to be the missing girl from 15 years ago.

The finding of the body starts a succession of murders. The reader enters the world of the Gothic. The dark charisma of participants who lead a life of Gothic symbolism. Running parallel with the investigation runs a tale of people who have had Near death experiences. Jan Fabel is one. He survived being shot two years previously and ‘died’ on the operating table, only to be revived. The two stories eventually combine and we begin to enter this strange life of NDE’s and the Gothic.

The whole action takes place in Altona, a part of Hamburg. The geographical locations, mentioned in the book, took some time to grasp. As did the names of the characters taking part. The Police, the Public and, of course the perpetrators of an abundance of murder.

Jan Fabel is a different kind of Policeman. Since his own NDE he has little fear of putting himself in dangerous situations.

At times I was bemused as the action and characters seemed to move so swiftly through the story. I had to halt, re-locate the history of an individual, then carry on again. After having to do this a few times I began to wonder if the story was worth the effort. It was. I began to enjoy it and wanting to see what was to happen next. There are many twists to the tale, some romance, lots of Gothic references and a plethora of gory murder.

To end this review I’ll quote a paragraph from the beginning of the book.

“The existence of near death experiences is not disputed; their nature is. Many who experience NDE are left with an overwhelming belief in an afterlife and lose all fear of death. Science views these experiences as powerful and convincing hallucinations triggered by the near-death release of highly potent neurochemicals and intense electrical activity in the brain. Whatever the cause, whatever their true nature, near-death experiences leave those who undergo them profoundly changed.”

This book is well worth a read if for no other reason than to begin to understand The Gothic traditions and NDE’s

I give this book 3 anchors.