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The Devil's Spoor

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623 pages8 hours

Summary

The bodies of two men are found in their respective luxury Cape Town homes murdered in what appears to be a sadistic cult ritual. Or was it racism? The police do not find a single clue, nor how access was gained, or what the motive could be. In both cases the testes of the victims had been removed with surgical skill and the eyes gouged out and neatly folded into the newly produced cryptorchism of the scrotum. Days later a third blueprint victim is discovered, an art dealer.
Investigating the murders Rian Schröder consults the FBI and they surmise the killer was sending a message. He also consults a university professor and she tells him to see something of the past being reproduced. Via bank statements Rian discovers that two paintings bought from the third victim are missing from the first two victims’ homes. The paintings lead Rian to the lawyer who is handling the estate of the late Inge Croucamp and he supplies Rian with two small faded pictures of the paintings. Rian sends copies of the pictures to Interpol and they come back with the news that the Ryback Museum in Israel had identified the pictures by artists who were Russian Jews. During World War Two the pictures were stolen from the estate of a wealthy Polish Jew in Kraków.
As Rian follows the spoor of the paintings to Kraków, Berlin and back to Cape Town there are a number of attempts on his life. In Kraków, Tuvia Chaszczewacki whose grandparents died in a Polish Concentration camp, and whose job it is to retrieve missing valuables, and Herzke Rosenfelder an Israeli police officer based in Vienna with whom Tuvia liaises, takes Rian to the Borzykowski estate where he meets Lodka, Borzykowski’s daughter.
They tell Rian the story of the Devil of Kraków, Brigadeführer Achim Burgsmuller who appropriated the Borzykowski property for his offices when he was appointed chief of the Gestapo for Poland, Czechoslovakia and Slovakia. Achim was a brutal sadist. The day he arrived at the estate he sent Lodka’s parents and all the staff on the back of trucks to Auschwitz and raped the ten-year old Lodka. Achim had a taste for young girls and no-one could oppose him. Anyone who did was brutally murdered or sent to a concentration camp. Achim was responsible for the erection of four Nazi death camps where nearly five million people of thirty nationalities, as many Jews as Poles, were exterminated over a five-year period. In 1943 Achim was transferred to Berlin and put in charge of all research in the Reich. He took the paintings with him. Achim disappeared before the final curtain rang down on Germany and after the war the Nuremberg Court found him guilty of war crimes and in absentia sentenced him to be executed ‒ Tod durch den strang.
Rian visits Auschwitz and is shocked by what he sees. However one remaining smoke stack triggers a thought ‒ see how reproduction is happening. Rian realizes this was the German obsession with the Aryan race. He decides to go to Berlin to visit the repository of captured German files containing dossiers of 4.5 million members of the Nazi Party. In the archives and with the help of Gesche Eichgrün, a commissioner in the Sonder Dezernat, a unit of the Bundes Polizei that investigates sensitive matters, Rian makes a number of momentous discoveries, one being how Inge acquired the paintings.
Shortly after Tuvia and Herzke turn up in Cape Town Tuvia disappears. Next Rian’s aide Colonel Jenna-Wade Knapton disappears. She is followed by a suspect, Dr. Amarilis Jimenez, a Cuban surgeon at the Khayelitsha hospital. And finally Eva, Inge’s niece, disappears. Searching for the four women Rian is taken captive by the killer and is told his car with his ID and pistol will be driven over a cliff. On the seat will be an open can of petrol that will ignite and explode and Herzke the driver will be burnt beyond recognition. What is the captor’s intention with Rian, described as the perfect Aryan? And what of the four women?

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