Blood Flag: Steve Martini
Assisted death is at the heart of this mystery/thriller by author Steve Martini. Emma Brauer is sixty-three years old and has been accused of assisting the death of her father, Robert Brauer. Although he was quite ill and was suffering for a long time, he entered a hospital where he would spend his final days. Devoted to him and concerned for his welfare Emma took the initiative to place him somewhere she thought was safe. Paul Madriani and Harry Hinds have been hired by Emma to defend her and prove her innocent when the police decide she is guilty. But, before he died her father received a package containing a photo and a key, which she was told to place in his safety deposit box in the bank. Never questioning what it was nor did she ask who the mysterious caller was that haunted his waking hours and was threatening him without her knowing it.
Before learning about what might be in the box we get to know Sofia, his young legal assistant who is smart, energetic and sympathetic of Emma when she is arrested for the death of her father. Promising her that she would go and get her dog and take care of him little did Sofia know that the mysterious man who placed her father in danger and wanted the key as well would be at Emma’s home. A good deed cost Sofia her life as the contents of the package has yet to be revealed while Paul and the police try to unravel the mystery of Sofia death and clear Emma.
While the police question Paul about Sofia events come to light but the police will not divulge where she was killed or much about the murder other then she was strangled. Paul feels guilty thinking it was his fault she went to Emma’s house to get the dog but the police never found him.
The novel has a multiple plot as we learn about what might be in the safety deposit box, what the slip of paper or ID had written on it and the involvement of the Mossad where he hear many voices and realize that somehow they might have been involved in what happened to Paul’s assistant. Dating back to WWII, the key contains information and a member of his army unit bequeathed something that is related to the Nazis as the thing found in the box links to the Second World War. As more information comes to light and Paul wants to learn more about Emma’s father’s military career, he realizes that his is not the only death linked to his unit. The key to the mystery is the key that was found in the safety deposit box and the paper that is some type of ID. With Harry Hinds and Herman doing the leg work to learn more about the box and hiring PI’s to find out what happened to Sofia could both be related and could Sofia have come in contact with whomever was looking for the mysterious key?
Author Steve Martini shares his expertise as a lawyer when he explains how the bail hearing goes, when you can charge someone for murder or in this case voluntary manslaughter, when bail would and would not be granted and the court process in general. We also hear the voice of Paul Madriani as he explains each move, his reasoning and what he is thinking so readers know that he is basically running the show and trying to cooperate with the police by working together and sharing information. A phone call enlightens Paul as the link between Emma’s father and others in the 45 division during WWII. It was a National Guard Unit. Recruits came from all over and this particular group of soldiers was sent out to execute German prisoners. Guards were shot when they tried to surrender. The ID and the key are the major players in finding out just what is in the safety deposit box and how this links to the symbol of the Nazis the swastika. The author’s research is extensive as he explains where the symbol comes from and how would wear it proudly on their shoulders on their uniforms. But, in the end we learn that there are several groups including the Israelis that are looking for this symbol, which turns out to be the Blood Flag, a Nazi relic.
“The Blutfahne (pronounced [bluːtˈfaːnə]), or Blood Flag, is the Nazi German Swastika flag that was used in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, Germany on 9 November 1923, during which it became soaked in the blood of one of the SA members who died. It subsequently became one of the most revered objects of the Nazi Party. It was used in ceremonies in which the Blood Flag consecrated new flags for party organizations when they were touched by it. The flag was that of the 5th SA Sturm, which was carried in the march towards the Feldherrnhalle. When the Munich police fired on the Nazis, the flagbearer Heinrich Trambauer was hit and dropped the flag. Andreas Bauriedl, an SA man marching alongside the flag, was killed and fell onto it, staining the flag with his blood.” Wikipedia.
Anthony Pack’s father died under strange circumstances and when Paul meets with him getting his information from the lawyer holding the cards or the secrets about Pack’s father, Emma’s and the man that ran the squad Walter Jones. We learn about the reason for their deaths and wonder why the police never investigated Pack’s father’s death.
Jocelyn, Paul’s girlfriend learns about Sofia’s death, is heartsick and at this meeting when the autopsy results are read and she reads the section titled additional findings it sets her off on a quest to learn more from the man who recommended her for the post in Paul’s office. This plot is complex and it all just might lead back to WWII. The author goes into the rise of Hitler’s power, how he was able to overtake several governments, soldiers to help him and find his way into power one that should have never happened had the army not given him a job to start with. Sofia’s death brings out information that might link both cases as Herman who is Paul’s investigator reads from an article in the paper that enlightens them to the definition of Blood Flag in German and how that relates to the safety deposit box. The history of the flag is quite extensive, the link to the photo ID of the man in the safety deposit box and the hope that somehow the Blood Flag, its history and Emma and Anthony’s fathers would link it all together. Identifying the man in the photo ID as Jakob Grimminger born in Augsburg, Bavaria. He entered the Imperial German Army at the age of 16. Serving in WWI as a mechanic in an air regiment for three years from 1914-1917. He also served a year in Palestine then returning to Germany. A member of the SS< he was given the honor of carrying the blood stained Blutfahne from the Munich Putsch.
As information filters out though the news media about the flag, its possible worth, the three soldiers that were killed, Brauer, Pack and Jones, just who will benefit from the sale of the flag if it’s found and what legal rights do they have? What about Elliot Fish the lawyer who has the written instructions and agreements signed by all three? Why are the Israeli’s after it and why did they hire someone to ransack Emma’s house? As the threads begin to unravel and the reasons for the deaths come to light will Emma be cleared? Will the reasons for the death of the three soldiers have anything to do with the worth of the flag and who might profit
the most if sold? What about Ivan Roth the dealer? As Paul and Joselyn meet with Pack and his wife information comes to light, interesting artwork is viewed and you wonder whom if anyone can be trusted. With the judge not allowing certain evidence regarding the Flag and its connection to Sofia’s murder into evidence, with the prosecution holding back and the news media having a field day leaking the information about the flag, just who is the mysterious person that called the dealer with the news and who is behind sending the keys and the photo? With the FBI director having to reluctantly come on board and the fact that some had radio frequency identification chips inserted under the skin, which provided automatic identification as to the owner’s location. The importance of this and where they found a chip is shared and lead them to a man named James Pepper whose identity was stolen and being used. As Thorpe contemplated about James Pepper, his relationship to DARPA and a spy plot to steal naval plans for an underwater drone, the Israeli intelligence on that never existed and more. An agent killed and a war on and the ending so explosive you won’t see it coming. Truths, lies, betrayals, power, greed, money and a conspiracy so unreal that you just won’t believe the link to a flag that contained the blood of a soldier, the symbol of the Nazis and reminder that at one time Hitler really rules. Blood Flag: filled with historical events, compelling stories and a reminder that the holocaust really did happen. A flag filled with hate, fear, power, cruelty and a father who wanted it all at any cost.
Powerful, explosive and compelling: Steve Martini gets five golden stars for Blood Flag and a starred review.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine