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From The CriticsIn 1938, Oskar Voxlauer returns home to Niessen, Austria, just before the Nazi takeover. Still smarting from the effects of World War I and his subsequent desertion to the Ukraine, not to mention his father's suicide and his wife's death, Voxlauer holes up in a childhood friend's shack in the hills outside of a small town. But when he meets his neighbor Else and falls in love, trouble quickly follows. Else's cousin Kurt is the local Nazi overseer, devoted to Else but also pressured to punish Voxlauer, who is alarmed by the town's increasing support of the Third Reich. Wray's novel is hampered by several instances of inconsistent characterization. For example, when Voxlauer bashes Kurt's head against a tree during a scuffle, Kurt responds by sheepishly forgiving him (not exactly what one might expect from one of Hitler's enforcers). Equally confusing are the italicized sections that initially represent Voxlauer's flashback monologues but then turn into Kurt's own recollections late in the book. Such stylistic lapses weaken Wray's otherwise tight web of small-town relationships.