Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Spring of Kasper Meier by Ben Fergusson

Set in 1946 Berlin, the war has left the local population struggling to survive. With curfews and the military still in place and everything in short supply, many turn to the black market to buy and sell precious commodities. 

Kasper Meier is a regular trader on the black market. He can find anything anyone needs as long as it is for the right price. A young woman named Eva arrives at his home out of the blue one day asking him to help her find a British pilot. 

Lacking in sympathy and reluctant to interfere with the military, he tries to decline. But Eva has come prepared; she knows his secrets and uses them against him and so he has no choice but to get involved. 

He soon learns that Eva is only a small part of the puzzle, and Kasper is soon embroiled in an intricate web of secrets, lies and betrayal that become far more dangerous than he could ever have imagined for him, his elderly father and the young woman he is fast becoming fond of. 

This is my second review of a Young Writer of the Year Award 2015 shortlisted book and I can see why The Spring of Kasper Meier has made the cut. I’m a big fan of historical fiction anyway but for me the most striking thing about this novel is how brilliantly the author recreates the desolate setting of post-war Berlin. With images of crumbling, ruined buildings, underground bars and rubble filled streets; it fully immerses the reader in that time and place and is an excellent backdrop for the storyline that takes place. I enjoyed the theme of trading on the black market, and the fact that information is at times even more valuable than food and goods; which Kasper finds out the hard way. 

Kasper himself is surly and sometimes cold, but as the story unfolds, you uncover so much about his past and you can’t really help but feel for him at times. I especially liked the relationship that develops with Eva despite all the secrets between them. 

So with an evocative setting and well drawn characters, there is also a thrilling mystery running through the heart of the story that will keep you gripped right up until the end. I was completely absorbed into this novel and I think other historical fiction and thriller readers will be too. After this I’m eager to see future novels by Ben Fergusson. 

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