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Book review: A Wolf in Hindelheim

wolf hindelheimNot a lot happens in Hindelheim, that is until a baby disappears, setting off a course of events that quietly spirals out of control.

Jenny Mayhew’s debut novel is set in the rural South West Germany of 1926. Harsh memories of the Great War are still fresh and although ex-serviceman, Constable Theodore Hildebrandt, bares the physical scars, he is mentally sharp. Despite the remote location and his lowly rank, this policeman is a match for any of his urban peers. He is a stubborn man of honour with a meticulous eye for detail, but often forgets when to keep his mouth shut. This is particularly frustrating for his son, Deputy Constable Klaus, especially in the presence of their superiors.

The leading cast of players is a match for any contemporary television soap. The families of Hindelheim are awash with secret liaisons, affairs and illegitimate births. A Wolf in Hindelheim is a simmering pot that takes its time to develop but reaches boiling point when Elias Frankel escapes from the law and unleashes a manhunt and hysteria in the local population, gaining him the undeserved reputation as the Wolfman. Elias is a Jew and this is at a time in Germany when the unsavoury eugenics-healthy breeding campaign starts to raise its ugly head and we are introduced to The German Peoples League, a forerunner to the Nazis. Perhaps the Wolf in the title is a metaphor for what the future holds – a growing hatred of anything different.

Mayhew’s writing is poetic and engaging. She tells a story with subtle nuances, drawing the reader into a small world with major consequences. In the closing chapters Mayhew writes “hope…is the last organ to die” which speaks volumes.

Order a copy of A Wolf in Hindelheim.

Reviewed by Gerard O’Hare. Gerard previously worked as an actor, appearing in theatre, film, TV, and on the radio. His short screenplay, The Long Walk won funding from the Northern Lights scheme, was screened on the BBC and at film festivals. Gerard is now Client Development Manager at The Bookseller and book reviewer for We Love This Book focusing on new authors

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