cover image Ashes in the Snow

Ashes in the Snow

Oriana Ramunno, trans. from the Italian by Katherine Gregor. HarperVia, $18.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-333594-3

Ramunno’s debut novel is a wrenching murder mystery set in December 1943 at Auschwitz. Hugo Fischer, a criminologist at the Reich’s main security office in Berlin with a secret case of multiple sclerosis, has been sent to the camp to investigate the death of Dr. Sigismund Braun, who worked closely with Josef Mengele, the notorious “Angel of Death” known for conducting inhumane experiments on prisoners. By the time Fischer arrives, Braun’s corpse has been removed and his laboratory cleaned up, leaving Fischer with little evidence and only one witness: eight-year-old Gioele, who found the body and is being held in Auschwitz with his twin brother. In Berlin, little is known of the horrific conditions at the camp, and Fischer is shocked by what he sees. He’s also increasingly desperate to keep secret his own debilitating condition, lest he become a target for the Reich. As Fischer, with Gioele’s help, starts poking around Braun’s murder, he unearths a secret network of SS officials with surprising sympathies who may be able to help with more than just the murder case. Ramunno delivers sound detective work and memorably tense atmosphere, but it’s her multilayered protagonist and insights into an under-covered political movement within Nazi Germany that stand out. This marks the arrival of a major new voice in historical fiction. Agent: Piergiorgio Nicolazzini, Piergiorgio Nicolazzini Literary. (Sept.)