Fatherland // by Robert Harris

//published 1992//

Ever since I read The Man in the High CastleI’ve been keeping my eyes open for other good alternative history stories.  Fatherland is just such a story.  Again, here Germany won World War II.  And here again, we are now in the 1960’s.  But instead of being set in the US, Fatherland takes place in Berlin and focuses on a man named Xavier March, a detective who is rather disillusioned with life.  All of Berlin is gearing up for Hitler’s 75th birthday, but March is just trying to live his every day life.  He’s divorced and lives alone, spending most of his time working.  He doesn’t quite buy into all of the Nazi glad-handing, but not really because he has a passion against the Nazi government – more because he thinks all of this “we’re all one big happy family” stuff is a bit of nonsense.  Still, for the most part he keeps his head down and just does his job, even if he doesn’t bother to Heil Hitler every time he meets up with a fellow official.

When a body is discovered early one morning, March begins his investigation, and finds a few things that seem rather odd.  But then the body is identified as a high-ranking Nazi commander, and March is called off the case as the Gestapo step in.  But March can’t quite let go of all those facts that don’t match.  Working the case on his own time means that he’s playing a dangerous game – the Gestapo don’t take kindly to people who don’t fall in line.

Soon, March meets up with another quiet rebel – an American journalist named Charlotte who happened to discover the body of another high-ranking Nazi official… coincidence?  March doesn’t think so, either.

There was a lot to like about this book.  Harris has done his research, and based his Berlin (and world) on documents by real Nazis, who had a lot of plans for the world they intended to conquer.  However, the fact that Germany won the war is really just background to a solid mystery.  March isn’t leading a rebel force, we don’t hear much about insurgencies and uprising, there’s no big rebellion – it’s just one detective trying to do his job.  While I wasn’t staying up all night to finish this one, the pacing was excellent, and I didn’t want to put it down whenever I was reading it.  I really liked March a lot, and was rooting for him.  He’s intelligent but not flashy.

I was a little scared of how it was going to end, but it was handled well, even if a bit sad.  I would have been happy to read an entire series of mystery books with March as the main character.  All in all, and enjoyable read – a historical fiction mystery with a different history as the background.  4/5.