Welcome to my stop on The Ashes of Berlin Blog Tour! Thanks for coming by 😀 I have an extract to share with you all. The extract is chapter one of this brilliant historical crime-thriller. I haven’t had the opportunity to read The Ashes of Berlin yet but this piece makes me want to start straight away. It has been a while since I have had the chance to read a decent historical fiction novel and I am sure The Ashes Of Berlin will fit the bill nicely. Enough of me talking, I will share a few details about Luke McCallin and the synopsis for The Ashes Of Berlin, then straight to the extract.
About Luke McCallin
Luke McCallin was born in 1972 in Oxford, grew up in Africa, went to school around the world and has worked with the United Nations as a humanitarian relief worker and peacekeeper in the Caucasus, the Sahel, and the Balkans. His experiences have driven his writing, in which he explores what happens to normal people – those stricken by conflict, by disaster – put under abnormal pressures.
He lives with his wife and two children in an old farmhouse in France in the Jura Mountains. He has a master’s degree in political science, speaks French, and can just get by in Russian. When he’s not working or writing, he enjoys reading history, playing the drums, and heading into the mountains for a run!
Synopsis for The Ashes Of Berlin
1947 and Gregor Reinhardt has been hired back onto Berlin’s civilian police force. The city is divided among the victorious allied powers, tensions are growing, and the police are riven by internal rivalries as factions within it jockey for power and influence with Berlin’s new masters.
When a man is found slain in a broken-down tenement, Reinhardt embarks on a gruesome investigation. It seems a serial killer is on the loose, and matters only escalate when it’s discovered that one of the victims was the brother of a Nazi scientist.
Reinhardt’s search for the truth takes him across the divided city and soon embroils him in a plot involving the Western Allies and the Soviets. And as he comes under the scrutiny of a group of Germans who want to continue the war – and faces an unwanted reminder from his own past – Reinhardt realizes that this investigation could cost him everything as he pursues a killer who believes that all wrongs must be avenged…
The Ashes Of Berlin Extract – Chapter 1
BERLIN, EARLY 1947
Reinhardt had come to prefer the nights.
The nights were when things felt cleaner, clearer. The nights
were when his city could sometimes resemble something more
than the shattered ruin it was. The nights were when he did have to
look down at the dust and grit that floured his shoes and trousers, the
innards of his city turned out and spread wide for all to see. It was the
days when Berlin emerged scarred and scorched into the light, when
its people arose to chase their shadows through the day, wending their
way from who knew where to who knew what beneath frowning
escarpments of ruin and rubble, which humped up and away in staggered
mounds of wreckage, and through which the roads seemed to
wind like the dried-out bottoms of riverbeds.
It was very early on a Monday morning when the call came in, a
body in a stairwell in an apartment building in the American sector of
Berlin, down in Neukölln. These were bad hours by anyone’s reckoning,
the hours no one wanted, the hours married men were curled up asleep
with their wives, the single men with their girls, when even drunks
found a corner to sleep it off . They were the hours those on the chief’s
blacklist worked. They were the hours they gave the probationers—
those too new to the force to maneuver themselves a better shift —or
those too old but who had nowhere to go.
Reinhardt knew he was closer to the second category than to the
first. But however those hours were counted by others, he considered
them his best, when it was quiet and he could have the squad room all
but to himself, or else wander the darkened streets and avenues, winding
his way past the avalanche slides of brick and debris, learning the
new architecture the war had gouged across Berlin’s façades. He and
his city were strangers to each other, he knew. They had moved on in
diff erent ways, and these night hours—these witching hours, when he
would sometimes chase the moon across the city’s jagged skyline, spying
it through the rents and fi ssures deep within buildings, watching
the play of light and shadow in places it should never have been seen—
were what he needed to rediscover it, what it was, and what had become
All this, though, was in the back of his mind as the ambulance
followed the dull glow of its headlights down a road swept clear along
its middle, pocked and pitted with shell craters and tears in its surface,
a suggestion of looming ruin to either side. He spotted the building
up ahead, the fitful yellow beams of flashlights wobbling yolk-like in
its entrance and casting the shadows of people up the walls and out
into the street. He climbed stiffly out of the ambulance, switching on
his own flashlight as he turned up the channel cleared between the
rubble. He paused. He swung the flashlight at the entrance of a ruined
building across the road. Hidden in the shadows, a pack of children
watched with glittering eyes, vanishing from view when he held the
light on them a moment longer.
A uniformed officer in his archaic uniform, complete with brassfronted
gray shako, watched as Reinhardt knocked the dust from his
shoes in the building’s entry, pocketing his flashlight.
“There we were about to send for the American MPs, but it looks
like the Yanks have shown up anyway,” the young officer quipped.
“Which police station are you from?”
“Reuterstrasse,” said the policeman, his face clenching in suspicion.
“I’ll speak to whoever’s in charge here,” said Reinhardt, holding
the younger officer’s eyes as he took his hat off .
Th e officer’s face darkened, but he cocked his head inside. “Sergeant.
A second officer pushed his way out of a crowd of people milling
in the entrance. Reinhardt thought he recognized him, a man well into
middle age, tall, lanky, with old-fashioned sideburns—although it if
was him, the man used to be a lot heft ier and bulkier.
“Cavalry’s here, Sarge,” the young officer said. Reinhardt ignored
him as the older officer threw his colleague a reproachful look.
“Good morning, sir,” he said. “What Officer Diechle means, sir, is
we was about to call the Amis, I mean, the American Military Police.
We didn’t know if anyone was coming out from Kripo at this hour.”
“Well, some of us detectives are up and about,” Reinhardt said, smiling,
his voice soft . “Inspector Reinhardt, Schöneberg Kripo Division.”
“Yes, sir. No offense at our surprise in seeing you, sir.”
“And why’s that?”
“Because they don’t usually stir themselves for what seems like
accidents or open-and-shut cases,” said Diechle. “ ’Specially not at this
“Who says it was either of those?”
“He was drunk, he fell down the stairs,” Diechle snorted. “That’s
all it is.”
“Show me what you’ve found. Sergeant Frunze, isn’t it?” Reinhardt
suddenly remembered the man’s name, feeling it slip onto his tongue
from out of nowhere, it seemed. Something in the man’s appearance,
those old-fashioned side-burns, the accent triggering a memory of a
line of struggling, sweating policeman trying to hold apart a seething
mass of Nazis and Communists, and Frunze reeling away with blood
sheeting his cheeks but a brown-shirted thug caught under his arm,
the lout’s face turning red inside the policeman’s armlock as Frunze
calmly recited the man’s rights to him.
“That it is, sir. Frunze. Very glad to see you remember, sir,” he said,
ignoring the way his younger colleague rolled his eyes. “Th is way, sir.”
“Last time I saw you, you were up in one of the Tiergarten stations.”
“Time’s moved on a bit, sir. You go where they send you these
days,” Frunze replied, a quick glance at Reinhardt. He could not tell
what the glance might have meant, but an experienced officer like
Frunze, especially one his age, ought not to be running a night shift
in a place like Neukölln. It had always been a rough neighborhood.
Left -wing, working class, where the cops had never been welcome, and
Reinhardt did not think things had changed much as Frunze led him
through the small crowd of people to the bottom of the stairs, over to
where the body of a man lay, face up. The light in the entrance was a
shifting mix of flashlights, candles, and lanterns held by the policemen
and by the cluster of people—men, women, and children—to the
side of the stairs. It made for a confusing play of shadows, but there
was light enough for Reinhardt to see that the man’s nose and mouth
were a puffed and bruised welter of blood that fanned the bottom of
his face and jaw and had soaked into the clothes on his left shoulder.
There were scratches and lesions on his face, on his scalp, and on his
hands, the skin of his knuckles stripped raw. Reinhardt’s eyes were
drawn back to the injuries around the nose and mouth, the wounds
framed by black and blue discolorations that indicated he had received
them some time before dying. If he got those falling down the stairs,
Reinhardt thought, he would have lain here a good long time before
dying and there was no pooling of blood, so far as he could see.
“Has forensics arrived, yet?”
“It should be Berthold coming. I called him before I left . Any identification on the body?”
Reinhardt pulled on a thin pair of old leather gloves, then reached
under the man’s neck, lifting it gently. The head did not quite follow,
slipping from side to side.
“Broken neck, sir?” asked Frunze.
“It would seem so. Anyone find a bottle?”
“No, sir,” Frunze sighed. “But the man does smell of booze. I reckon
he spilled a bit down the front of his clothes. But much as Diechle would
like this to be open and shut, I’ve a feeling it’s not.”
“No. Probably not. Who found him, Sergeant?” he asked, gently
feeling and pinching his way down the man’s arms, feeling the heft to
“The building’s superintendent. Or, what passes for one these days,
sir. Here.” Frunze indicated an elderly man in a threadbare dressing
gown with a tangled rosette of iron-gray hair running around his
head from ear to ear, a scarf bunched tight around his neck. “Name’s
“Mr. Ochs,” Reinhardt addressed him as he knelt, his left knee
stretching painfully as he did. “Tell me what you heard and saw,” he
said as he ran his fingers down the man’s clothes, reaching carefully
under the collar of the overcoat. Some men, black marketers and
criminals in particular, had been known to sew razor blades under the
lapels, but there was nothing.
Reinhardt felt the fabric of the man’s coat, his shirt, the tie knotted loosely beneath his chin.
“Yes, sir. Well, it would have been about two o’clock in the morning.
I heard a man calling for help, then I heard a terrible thumping.
There was another cry, I think as the poor soul hit the bottom, then
nothing. I came out of my rooms, just there,” he said, pointing at a
door ajar next to the entrance, “and found him.”
Reinhardt shone his flashlight at the stairs, the light glistening
back from something wet about halfway up.
“Have you seen him before?” Ochs shook his head. “You’re sure?
He’s not a tenant? Not a displaced person the municipality’s moved in
recently.” Ochs shook his head to all of it.
“He’s no DP, sir,” said Frunze. When Reinhardt encouraged him
to go on, Frunze pointed at the man’s coat, at his shoes. “Look at that
quality. You don’t find that in Berlin these days. If he’s a DP, he’s a
“Thank you, Sergeant,” said Reinhardt, watching Diechle out of
the corner of his eye as the younger officer followed their discussion.
Th e man was no displaced person, Reinhardt was sure. His clothes
were too good, his fingernails too clean, his hair had been cut recently,
and quite well. He had been well-fed, the weight of his limbs and the
texture of his skin testament to that. “These other people,” he said to
Ochs. “The building’s tenants?”
“Any of them hear or notice anything?” he asked both Ochs and
“Nothing, sir,” answered the sergeant. “One or two of them said
they were awakened by the noise of the man falling. One of them says
she thinks she might have seen him before, though.”
“Bring her, please,” he said to Frunze. “Is everyone living in the
building here, Ochs?”
“Not everyone, sir. There’s some who work nights, and one person’s
Frunze came forward escorting a woman carrying a young child,
two more children in her wake. “Madam,” said Reinhardt. “You told the
police you might have seen this man?”
“I think so. Once or twice. The last time maybe two days ago, each
time on the stairs.”
“Did you say anything to each other?”
“Only a greeting. Nothing else.”
“Did you notice anything about him?”
“Anything. Was he in a hurry? Did he seem worried?”
“Nothing. We just passed each other.”
“Thank you, madam. We’ll have you all back to bed soon,” Reinhardt
said, a small smile for the little boy with a tousled head of hair.
“Have you had a look around upstairs, Sergeant?”
“Not really, sir. We didn’t want to mess anything up for the
“Very well. We’ll have a look now. Ochs, you come with me, please.
Diechle, please tell the ambulance men to wait for Berthold before
moving this body. And Diechle? There’s some children outside, probably
living homeless across the street. See if you can persuade one or
two of them to talk to us. And Diechle,” he insisted, as the young officer’s face darkened again. “No rough stuff . Just ask them.”
Sweeping his flashlight from side to side across each step, Reinhardt
started upstairs. He passed the first smears of blood he had seen
from the bottom, about halfway up. At the top of the first flight, where
the stairs turned tightly around and continued up, there was another
spattering on the floor, a streak on the banister, as if a man had stood
there, catching his breath, perhaps calling for help, swaying back and
forth through his pain. Up to the first floor, his feet crunching in the
dust and clots of plaster and rubble that salted the stairs, more stains,
more smudges on the wood of the banister. There were two doors on
the first-floor landing, and Ochs confirmed the tenants—the woman
Reinhardt had talked to with her three young children, and an elderly
Feeling like Hansel following the bread crumbs, Reinhardt continued
upstairs to the second floor, the building’s smell growing
around him, a smell of people too closely packed together, of damp
washing and bad food. At the second-floor landing, Ochs told him the
tenants—a widow and another family—were also downstairs.
“All the ladies are on the first two floors. As of the third, the building’s
in a bit of a state, still. It’s not been fully repaired, you’ll see.”
On the third floor, the building took on a different register, the
walls a labyrinthine scrawl of cracks and rents from the damage it had
suffered, and the strains it must still be under. The corners of the stairs
and landings were rounded with dust and plaster swept and pushed to
the sides. A draft swirled down from somewhere up above. Only one
apartment on the third floor was inhabited—a man away traveling—
the other was boarded shut, war damage rendering the apartment
uninhabitable, said Ochs. The same was true of the two apartments
above it, the little superintendent said, puffing behind Reinhardt with
his dressing gown bunched in one fist to hold it clear of his slippered
As the damage became worse, the building seemed to become
malodorous, dark, a listening dark, a dark that seemed to shuffl e quietly
back away from him as if cautious, as if the structure was sensitive
to the harm men had wrought upon it. On the fourth floor, Ochs
pointed to an apartment that was locked up, where the tenant—
Mr. Uthmann—worked nights on the railways. There was one floor
remaining, and Reinhardt paused at the landing, looking at the door
that stood ajar, moving slightly back and forth in the draft .
“Who lives there?”
Ochs caught his breath leaning on the banister. “Mr. Noell,” he
managed. “He lives alone.”
“He’s not downstairs?” asked Reinhardt, being careful to hide his
own breathing. It was very short, and he felt dizzy with the effort of
climbing the stairs.
“No. He is out sometimes. I didn’t . . .” Ochs puffed, “didn’t think
his absence downstairs anything out of the ordinary.”
“And the body downstairs is not this Noell?”
Reinhardt shone his flashlight across the floor, tracking its beam
through the fallen plaster and rubble, not knowing if the scuffed pattern
showed the tracks of anyone having passed through it all. “Well,
let’s see if he knew your Mr. Noell.”
Reinhardt drew his police baton, flicking it out to its full extension.
With the lead ball at the tip, he pushed the door open. Th e first
thing his light illuminated inside was a streak of blood on the wall,
from about head height and down. He saw a light switch and turned
it on, watching the room’s only bulb come fitfully to life.
One of the windows had glass in its frame, the other a mix of wood
and cardboard, most of it from CARE packages, the aid parcels sent
over from the United States, through which the wind slipped its insistent
way. There was a sofa, a pile of bedding next to it in a corner, and
an armchair that had seen better days. On a table made from a packing
crate stood a bottle and one glass.
Reinhardt walked carefully through into the second room, past a
small kitchen area, little more than an alcove with a sink and a hot
plate, and into a bedroom with a bed pushed up against the far wall
next to a lopsided wooden cupboard with a cracked mirror on one of
There was a body on the floor. Arms and legs spread wide, face
turned slackly to the ceiling.
“Oh yes,” said Ochs, as he peered over Reinhardt’s shoulder.
“That’s Mr. Noell.”
Thank you for stopping by to check out the upcoming paperback release of The Ashes Of Berlin from No Exit Press. I am really looking forward to getting involved with The Ashes Of Berlin as soon as possible, I am seriously slacking in the historical fiction area of my reading/reviewing. Please show your support for Luke in the comments section and make sure to check out the other stops on this brilliant blog tour. Poster below for more details.