- Niall Edworthy
- ARRSE Rating
- 3 Mushroom Heads
Otto Eckhart is in his late 20s and is already a washed up historian. Having lived in France for the early part of the 1930s he missed the rise to power of the National Socialist government. In France he wrote a thesis about the Cathars and the Holy Grail and is trying to find a publisher in pre-world war 2 Germany without any luck. He admits his thesis is more of an effort laboured under rather than a labour of love. In the post he receives a summons to 8 Prinz Albrecht Strasse in Berlin where an over whelmed Otto meets Ingrid, the secretary, and Heinrich Himmler.
Himmler is ecstatic about Otto's book and has had it published, bound and sent to many high-ranking functionaries in the Reich and SS and pays Otto 10,000 Reich-marks both as payment and part advance for his next assignment. He is also given an invite to Wewelsburg Castle that weekend.
Going home to Michelstadt to pass on the good news to his parents, Otto discovers the police at his house harassing his teacher father, a decorated World War 1 veteran, for not joining the National Socialist Teachers League. After being summoned to a police station, Otto's father is beaten up by Nazi policemen led by Muller. Seeing the ugly side of the Nazi government tears at Otto over his good fortune and he deliberates on what to do. He decides to go to Wewelsburg Castle and is met by Ingrid, who is definitely taking a shine to Otto. There he is inaugurated into the SS and meets many of Himmler's charlatan associates, including Weisthor, (do a Wikipedia on him!) who fed off of his beliefs in an Nordic Aryan Christ. Otto also discovers Himmler is having an affair, which goes against the public image of him being a good and honourable Aryan German. Otto is also given his next assignment, which is to find the Holy Grail.
From there Otto travels to Monsegur in the French Pyrenees, where he wrote his thesis about the Cathars and the Holy Grail. He renews his relationship with the family he stayed with, and their intelligent but eccentric son Poilu, who has 'werewolf syndrome'. While there he does research, and is visited by Ingrid and generally has a pleasant time. However the village has a modern telecommunication device – the telegram- which reminds him that Himmler wants results and warns Otto about his knowledge of Himmler's dalliance. Otto also receives a telegram informing him that the police have looked into Otto's fathers history, and found that his grandmother was a Jew and therefore the father a mischling. Muller, the police thug, also travels to Monsegur to inform Otto this, and takes great pleasure in it.
Eventually Otto pours his troubles out to Poilu's family, and to the disgraced local priest, Father Pietro, who was in charge of relics at the Vatican, but has lost his faith. Together, they decide to give Himmler what he wants and they create, weather and age a chalice that may be an Aryan holy grail, which Otto delivers to an at first sceptical, then ecstatic Himmler in Berlin. Otto then makes his way home to Michelstadt only to discover Muller and his cronies driving away taking Otto's father to Dachau.
Hoping that Himmler will not see through his elaborate forgery and with the confidence that the rank and uniform of an SS Hauptsturmfuhrer gives him, he uses his SS and Ingrid's connections to formulate a plan to liberate his father from Dachau, and any further will give the plot away. The interaction with the Nazi functionaries and the threat to his family put a little resolve into Otto's soul, and aided a little by a good Hugo Boss outfit there was a major building of Otto's character from meek historian at the beginning of the book to confident SS Hauptsturmfuhrer toward the end. I really felt I was reading two different characters. However, despite really doing nothing to deserve it, Otto gets the girl; Ingrid, for no other reason than possibly attraction, clearly nails her colours to Otto's mast.
The story is told first hand by Otto, in a humorous observation style. It is not obviously funny, and I feel I may have missed a few jokes that others may find. The first laugh out loud for me was after 140 pages. Should we laugh at such monsters from history such as Himmler? I believe so. It removes their credibility. Himmler and his cronies peculiar beliefs deserve to be mocked, but to make sure we do not fail take their crimes seriously, the times where we meet the Nazi regime in the book the style is definitely and deservedly 'black'.
Niall Edworthy is a former reporter and has been involved in the writing, at times ghosting, over 40 books. His first novel is a brave attempt to take Himmler's strange, vague, proto Christian and occultist beliefs and make a readable book with them. It's not my type of book, and while I have done some background and depth from Wikipedia for my own inquisitiveness, I will happily lay it down with no more wish to pursue the subject. A credible 3 Mushroom Heads. If I had an interest in the subject it would be 3.5.