Jack Turner, a lecturer and close-to-becoming professor at Culpepper University, rents a cabin in the nearby nearby Georgia mountains to spend a month focused on his dissertation, as in (a) narrowing down the topic and (b) begin writing. The cabin hasn’t been lived in for some years; it has a wonderful view of a lake, but the rugs need a good dusting. It had been previously owned by an older man who died of a stroke. The man’s son is a rising politician and currently a state senator.
Turner notices a photograph album on the bookshelf. It’s filled with old pictures, likely taken sometime shortly after World War II. A young boy seems to be in most of them, but the inscriptions on the back of the photos are in German. Jack’s girlfriend Rachel is fluent in German, and she helps translate. They don’t explain much.
When Jack stubs his toe a second time on the same loose floorboard, he lifts it up, and discovers a plastic box. Inside are an album of newspaper clippings from the 1990s, all stories about servicemen in different parts of the United States who died in accidental fires or explosions. A quick read of the clippings shows that the men all had been part of the same air squadron and stationed at the same air base in England during World War II. And they had one other thing in common: they had participated in the firebombing of the German city of Dresden in February of 1945. With the clippings is an old leather journal, written in German.
Jack and Rachel realize that they are looking at the work of a dead serial killer. And they discover his son, the state senator, knows about it. They will also soon learn that the son will do anything to stop them. Anything.
Remembering Dresden is the second in the Jack Turner mystery suspense novels by writer Dan Walsh. Walsh knows how to hook his readers. Several of the first chapters are the story of a family living in Dresden at the time of the firebombing and an eight-year-old boy who is the only survivor. It is gripping reading.
Walsh is the author of several books in the Christian fiction and inspirational genre. The Jack Turner series includes When Night Comes and Unintended Consequences, the first and third in the series, respectively.
The firebombing of Dresden remains controversial among historians. The city had no heavy industry or military targets, and it had not previously been bombed. The Russians were approaching from the east. Estimates as to the number of people killed during the firebombings by British and American planes range up to 135,000. Britain could be said to have been avenging the saturation bombings of cities like Coventry by the Germans in 1942 and the use of V-2 rockets in 1944 and 1945.
Remembering Dresden is a fast-paced, well-written, and well-plotted suspense novel. It also raises questions about what happens in war, and how actions taken for supposed military objectives can look very different in hindsight.
Top photograph: A view of Dresden after the firebombing of Feb. 13-15, 1945.