THE FOREST OF SOULS
Carla Banks

 


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Harper Collins, this edition first published May, 2005
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Helen Kovacs is an historian whose love for her work has caused problems with her marriage. When she is murdered, her best friend, Faith Lange, is asked to finish writing a paper Helen was going to present at a conference. Faith accesses Helenís computer to complete the task and discovers that Helen had been doing research into the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe, shortly before her death.

The son of a right wing extremist is arrested for Helenís murder but Faith is not convinced of his guilt. Jack Denbigh, a journalist who has been writing a series of articles about Eastern European refugees, also has his doubts.

To complicate matters, Jack has been interviewing Faithís grandfather, Marek, who is from Belarus, an area particularly affected by atrocities committed by both Stalinist Russians and the Nazis. Marek has been a successful businessman in England and Jack claims he is merely doing a series of interviews about what refugees from the War have made of their lives, but after talking to Jack, Marek seems to be upset and is living more and more in a past he refuses to discuss. Is it possible that Marek is hiding more than a past he finds distressing?

Both Faith and Jake are conducting separate investigations: Faith trying to find out who murdered her best friend; Jake chasing up information to complete a series of articles heís writing. They each uncover many pieces of the puzzle, but whether they are able to put it all together to find the truth is another question.

Author Carla Banksí father was an Eastern European cavalry officer who fled to the UK as a wartime refugee. He told his children stories of his childhood in the forests of Belarus, which Banks has used as a background for the book, cleverly using childrenís fairy stories from the region as a device to tell the story of ordinary people caught between two brutal regimes: the Stalinist Communists and the Nazis.

Many may find THE FOREST OF SOULS difficult to read. It has a number of threads dealing with terrible events of the past. Banks has created an absorbing mystery that also informs readers about a part of European history that is perhaps not well known.

July 2006 review originally posted on Murder and Mayhem

 

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