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Forest Of Souls [Hardcover]

Carla Banks

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Book Description

March 31 2005
A passion for history had already cost Helen Kovacs her marriage. Now she’s paid with her life. Helen had told no one of her research into the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe. Even her closest friend and colleague, Faith Lange, had no idea – until she began retracing the dead woman’s steps. Though the police have a suspect in custody, Faith is convinced that the murderer is still at large. And she is troubled, too, by the presence of Jake Denbigh, a journalist who appears to be investigating her grandfather, Marek, a refugee from the Eastern front. Everything hinges on the memories of a 75-year-old whose will to survive preserved her through the horrors of minsk and the concentration camps, and enabled her to make a new life in England with her son. Helen’s murder and its consequences will take Jake and faith on terrifying journeys: to Byelorussia where the mass graves of the kurapaty Forest have their own dreadful tale to tell; and into the heart of Faith’s own family where a tragic secret lies hidden...

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: UK General Books (March 31 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000719210X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007192106
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 3.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 581 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,917,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Praise for "The Forest of Souls." 'A haunting legacy of war' Frances Fyfield 'Banks! has managed to bring disturbingly alive the history of the Stalinist terrors and the brutal Nazi persecutions' Daily Mail 'A satisfying crime novel' TLS 'A breakthrough book! watch out for Carla Banks' Observer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Carla Banks grew up in a scholarly family. Her father, an eastern-european cavalry officer, came to the UK as a wartime refugee where he met and married her half-Irish mother. He told his children stories of his childhood in a country that had been destroyed by the war. Carla Banks has been an academic for most of her working life and is fascinated by the power of language. She lives in the north of England and now writes full time.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old murder, long shadows, new murder. April 9 2006
By P. Masters - Published on
In the woods around Minsk children wander towards the house of a witch, Baba Yaga, whose house stands on chicken legs behind a fence hung with the heads of people she's killed. Mass graves in the Kurapaty Forest and long-dead fingers stretch out towards the present to Faith Lange and her grandfather, Marek, whose memories of the second world war still haunt him.

Story telling in the age-old format weaving shadows with threads coloured scarlet and black, murder and secrets.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Page-Turner Mystery, and Something More May 12 2011
By Danusha V. Goska - Published on
"The Forest of Souls" is like one of those slices of turquoise that has striations running through it, stripes of some other substance that is very much not turquoise. In this cross-section of mined earth, brought like a landed fish to the surface and polished as a pendant, you see a stripe of brilliant sky blue, bisected by something dirt brown, bisected by brilliant blue again, as if it had never been interrupted. The two substances intermingle, but they never blend. In this sense, "The Forest of Souls" mirrors the very topics it addresses.

"The Forest of Souls" could be a beach book, one you read just as a page-turner, just for fun. But it could also be a book that causes you to cry, to ponder, to never forget, and to complicate just what atrocity, and which victims, you are remembering. Similarly, this multilayered structure mirrors the presence of the past in the present, the presence of immigrant cultures in mainstream cultures, and the presence of private secrets in public personas. It mirrors the persistence of marginalized histories that canonical narratives work to silence for expediency's sake.

"The Forest of Souls" takes place in modern-day England. People drive around in cars and call the police when there is trouble and are polite to each other. But every character in this comfortable, cool, crisp, civil landscape is haunted, in one way or another, by a very different world, a world of forests and swamps, of fairy tale witches and wolves who devour children, a world where even log houses constructed deep in sun-dappled, birch and pine forests are never far enough away from the outside world to be safe. This haunted and haunting Eastern Europe - Poland, Belarus, and Lithuania - is a land of unspeakable atrocity and deeply evil, treacherous human specimens. Or maybe not. Maybe it is a land of heartbreaking and selfless self-sacrifice and a heroism that is never told, never honored, the kind of utterly tragic heroism that dies, silent, unrecorded, with its martyred hero. One is not sure, in "The Forest of Souls," until the very last page.

"The Forest of Souls," is, thus, a meditation on guilt and innocence, and an instructional manual on how twisted those apparently diametrically opposed substances became in Nazi- and Soviet-era Eastern Europe.

On the other hand, "The Forest of Souls" is a straightforward murder mystery. An apparently innocuous university researcher, in a library, no less, is garroted. Whodunit? The book drops clues and proceeds methodically toward a satisfying and genuinely surprisingly revelation. The search entails a glamorous Russian émigré, a macho journalist, and a creepily realistically disgruntled ex-husband. It's an interesting crew, and there is a low-key romance.

The murder mystery here intrigued me. I did what one does when reading a murder mystery: the add and subtract calculations that cause one to pick a favorite candidate as the murderer.

The historical references educated and saddened me. "The Forest of Souls" references some lesser known horrors of the World-War-II era - not the more famous Auschwitz but the lesser known Maly Trostenets extermination camp, and the uncounted thousands, forgotten by the wider world, murdered by Soviets in the Kurapaty Forest.

One very worthy feature of "The Forest of Souls" is that one can read it as one likes. If you really just want a beach book, a murder mystery, you can choose not to linger on the passages that touch on atrocity. But if you want to ponder these passages and everything they imply, you have a book to chew on for a long time. Danuta Reah, writing here under the pseudonym Carla Banks, keeps her cards close to her chest. She does not harangue or push an agenda. It's clear, though, that she cares about the millions killed in places most people haven't even heard about, and the diabolically complex patchwork of competing ideologies and atrocities that dropped like a curse on the peasants and working people of Eastern Europe in the twentieth century.

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