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In the dying days of World War II, Pavel Romasko and his Red Army colleagues pick their way through the detritus of a dying Berlin. Stumbling upon the smoking remains of a Nazi bunker, they find something inside that eclipses the horror of even the worst excesses in the city above them.

As the war ends, retribution begins. But some revenge cannot be taken at once. Some revenge takes years.

Which is how, 70 years later, FBI agent Carla Romero and New York lawyer Gabriel Hall are enlisted to investigate a series of blood-chilling crimes that seem to have their roots in the distant past—even though the suffering they cause is all too present. And for one of them, the disappearance of young women is a particularly personal matter.

Author Gary Haynes took some time to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss his latest thriller, THE BLAMELESS DEAD:

Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?

The novel has two timelines: 1945 and 2015. This means that it is part historical thriller and part modern crime thriller.

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I have always been interested in history and, in particular, military history. The genre of historical thriller enables me to combine my many years of reading on subjects such as World War II, with storytelling. The advantage that this genre has over, say, a political thriller, is that the events are fixed in time, albeit subject to interpretation.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

The biggest challenge was to interweave the story in 1945 with that in 2015, such that there was a coherent whole without replication. This entailed significant attention to character development, especially since at least one character appears in both time periods. The biggest opportunity was to weave a fascinating thriller around what I consider to be an almost unknown people, namely the Kalmyks, who are the only Buddhists in Europe.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

An understanding of the extent to which the opposing forces in World War II were not defined by country. There were many instances in which communities and regions were split between their support for the Nazis and their support for the Soviet Union. An example of this is that which I have highlighted in the novel. In the then Soviet republic of Kalmykia, some of the inhabitants fought for the Red Army and others for the invading Nazis. Nothing was clear cut.

What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?

“How did writing this novel affect you?” I had repeated nightmares!


Gary Haynes studied law at university before becoming a commercial litigator. He is interested in history, philosophy, and international relations.

When he’s not writing bestselling thrillers or reading other people’s novels, he enjoys watching European films, traveling, hill walking, and spending time with his family.

To learn more about Gary, please visit his website.