The Dead Don’t Bleed is the intrigue-filled debut fiction novel by US historian David Krugler. Set in Washington as WWII draws to a close, L.T Ellis Voigt is tasked with investigating the murder of colleague Logan Skerill, found shot to death in an alley. As Skerill’s links to a suspected Soviet cell come to light, Voigt goes undercover to infiltrate a news-clipping business the cell is suspected to operate from, to determine the cause of Skerill’s death and the role the Soviets had to play.
As a historian, Krugler is naturally at ease in a painting an authentic picture of 1945 Washington. From the types of businesses of the period, the historical figures in play at the time and the language and slang of the era, the reader is immersed in a country coming to grips with the end of the world war and the beginning of a cold one. This period between the end of of fascism and the emerging threat of communism is unique and carefully selected by Krugler to set the tone for the novel and provide a peg for a number of plot points.
As Krugler’s first foray into fiction, one might expect the novel’s weakness to be either the pacing or dialogue. However, Krugler exceeds expectations in both respects. Following the murder of Skerill, the book settles into a smooth and steady pace, allowing the story to unravel naturally with Krugler rarely needing to rely on pulpy cliffhangers. Likewise, Voigt’s relationships, particularly with his romantic interests, always feel charmingly sincere.
The combination of natural dialogue, smooth pacing and meticulous historical detailing has the effect of giving the Dead Don’t Bleed a real feeling authenticity. The result is that the reader is easily absorbed in the mystery that is to be unraveled. And while the overarching mystery isn’t particularly groundbreaking, its various twist and turns are unexpected – at no point could predict which avenue the story would take. As a consequence, the Dead Don’t Bleed is an engaging read for anyone who is a fan of intelligent spy-thrillers, detective novels or historical fiction.
Thanks to Pegasus Books for the review copy.
The Dead Don’t Bleed can be purchased here.