Written by Peter Leonard

Review written by LJ Hurst

Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung

Faber and Faber
RRP: £13.99
Released: 3rd January 2013

Peter Leonard’s 2011 View From The Dead saw Harry Levin, holocaust survivor turned Detroit scrap metal dealer, discover that the German driver who had run down and killed his daughter in Washington DC, was his nemesis from the camps.

Like all of the Nazi nomenclatura Ernst Hess was not picking on Levin’s family – the repeated mortal blows were happenstance. Levin, though, took things personally, particularly after he discovered that Hess was doing well from his post-war rehabilitation and began to hunt Hess, planning to reveal his sordid background. Hess in fighting back forced Harry to look for allies and he found them in Cordell (black would-be drug dealer), Colette (German investigate journalist, appalled at her country’s record), and Joyce (Floridian business-woman).

Back From The Dead begins with Hess discovering that he has survived Levin’s shooting, floating in the warm recuperative waters of the Bahamas, and intending to return to his previous life and wealth. That intention, in turn, means that he must remove the threat that Levin poses. As an Ian Fleming character remarked: once is circumstance, twice is happenstance, three times is enemy action. And in enemy action there can be a lot of civilian casualties, even though they may not be what was planned. You have to take chance and human stupidity into account. Neither Hess’s nor Harry’s allies are of the brightest. Take Cordell, for instance, who has had a falling out with a Columbian drug gang, then ask yourself how many casualties there could be if he took along an incompetent bodyguard with an itchy finger, then multiply the resulting figure by the remaining Columbians wanting revenge. It does not make Cordell overly reliable in protecting Levin’s back.

On the other side – well, there are American neo-Nazis who manage to confuse a kidnapping with snaffling a cash tin. And somewhere in between sordid little private detectives doing missing person jobs who realise that the person who does not want to be found could be in funds – the trouble with them is that they coming back, and the more they come back the less you know about whose side they are on. It might be better to rub them out before they become a nuisance.

Set in 1971, when suspected war criminals such as Ernst Hess, were still in the prime of their lives, Back From The Dead suffers from confusion as to period. Hess’s ability to return seems more akin to much later super-villains such as Hannibal Lector, and the Florida real estate developments and the luggage carried by students seem more contemporary. Other details of the time, though, such as easy address searches which today would be covered by data protection rules, are necessary to the working out of the otherwise simple plot. Despite that simplicity, there is one nice reversal, which refers back to the real Nazi leadership at the end of war, but overall I think Peter Leonard would have been happier writing in an earlier period, probably as a scriptwriter of the TV movies which used to fill the listings twenty or thirty years ago. If you have read and liked View From The Dead or yearn for that earlier viewing time, then Back From The Dead is for you.


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