Having a famous and successful crime writing father in Elmore Leonard has thankfully not put off his son Peter from trying his hand at the genre. In ‘Voices of the Dead’, the first in a two part series, he chooses to the pair the well trodden streets of 1970’s Detroit with a territory less often plundered by modern crime writers - Nazi Germany.
Harry Levin is in some ways an archetypal detective figure. He is something of a loner, and unsuccessful with steady relationships, but he is not a detective at all. Harry owns his own scrap metal yard, and is only drawn into the world of detection when his only daughter is tragically killed in a road accident. The problem is that the other driver is a German diplomat, who uses his diplomatic immunity to escape punishment and flee back to Germany.
Understandably Harry decides to take the law into his own hands and to track him down. But being a Jewish Holocaust survivor, the trip back to the horrors of his youth is not an easy one. This plot twist ensures a very original story. My main quibble is that it stretches credulity somewhat when we find out that Harry is linked to the killer diplomat is more ways than one – possibly a plot device too far.
But it makes for a fast paced and entertaining crime novel, with the menace of neo- Nazi influence very well transmitted. And the writing also really successfully depicts 1970’s Detroit. Leonard is obviously a great talent. It’s good to read a politically motivated crime novel, and I’ll definitely be waiting for the sequel to come out to see what Harry does next.