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Berlin: A Novel

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Set in a devastated Berlin one month after the close of the Second World War, Berlin has been acclaimed as  ambitious . . . filled with brilliantly drawn characters, mesmerizingly readable, and disturbingly convincing" by the Sunday Telegraph. An electrifying thriller in the tradition of Joseph Kanon and Alan Furst, Berlin is a page-turner and an intimate portrait of Germany before, during, and after the war. It is 1945 in the American sector of occupied Berlin, and a German boy has discovered the body of a beautiful young woman in a subway station. Blonde and blue-eyed, she has been sexually assaulted and strangled with a chain. When the bodies of other young women begin to pile up it becomes clear that this is no isolated act of violence, and German and American investigators will have to cooperate if they are to stop the slaughter. Author Pierre Frei has searched the wreckage of Berlin and emerged with a gripping whodunit in which the stories of the victims themselves provide an absorbing commentary. There is a powerful pulse buried deep in the rubble.
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A serial killer stalks the war-torn streets of post-WWII Berlin, preying on beautiful, blonde women, in Frei's disappointing debut thriller a bestseller in Germany. Each of the victims is shown being viciously murdered, then a long flashback tells the victim's story up to her death. Because the reader already knows how and when the young woman's life will end, there's no surprise or suspense when that end arrives. Likable German police Insp. Klaus Dietrich must work with John Ashburner, a U.S. military police captain, to find the murderer. The serial killer's character is never explored in any depth (he's driven insane because a woman laughs at the size of his penis), and his actions are so simple-mindedly brutal that a certain feeling of disgust begins to creep over the reader long before the killer's identity is finally revealed. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

In this winning mix of mystery and history set in 1945 Berlin, Frei personalizes the horrors of war and occupation through the stories of the victims of a psychopathic serial killer. His targets blue-eyed blondes, found sexually assaulted and strangled with a chain include a movie star, a nurse with a Down syndrome son, a titled diplomat, and a high-class call girl whose pimp-husband rises in the Nazi ranks. All of them had been reduced to working for U.S. occupation forces but were on the verge of bettering their situation. As Inspector Klaus Dietrich, a wounded and decorated veteran, uncovers similar murders dating before the war, the posthumously told stories of the women's lives detail the deprivation and depravity of life under the Reich with its concentration camps (where medical experiments were conducted), followed by the brutality of Soviet occupation troops. Frei maintains the suspense of whether the killer will claim another victim to the final pages and provides an O. Henry-type close to the subplot about Dietrich's son Ben, a skilled con artist at a young age. In spite of the pedestrian translation, this is fine storytelling for history and mystery fans alike. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 6/1/06.] Michele Leber, Arlington, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-A satisfying cross-genre novel that has elements of historical fiction, suspense, and a tinge of romance. A sexual sadist is roaming the streets of Berlin during the post-World War II occupation, killing blond-haired, blue-eyed young women by torturing them. After each victim is found, Frei tells the story of her life before and during the war. The victims had a wide variety of experiences during the conflict and primarily represent Germans not involved in the Nazi party. The structure of the novel allows readers an interlude before returning to the investigation and murders. This is not a book for the fainthearted, and it is more appropriate for public libraries than for schools. However, teens will enjoy the novel, particularly those searching for earthy details of both war and violent crime. While not graphic, the sexual encounters are described in strong language. The pacing is good, and once involved in the story it is difficult to put it down. There are plenty of twists and turns, and a surprise assailant. The historical elements are compelling, particularly the division of Berlin and the relationships among the occupiers and the Germans. The weakest portion of the novel is the investigation itself, which relies on coincidence and luck for the eventual solution.-Mary Ann Harlan, Arcata High School, CA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Winding and gripping...intricately woven and fantastically plotted...engrossing, addictive." "A far from ordinary thriller. Berlin uses history with a breadth and detail that is startling and convincing. Now that the mass murder has stopped, murder is once again a matter of individuals." "In this winning mix of mystery and history set in 1945 Berlin, Frei personalizes the horrors of war....Frei maintains the suspense of whether the killer will claim another victim to the final pages....Fine storytelling." "In the end it is Berlin itself, the city and its inhabitants, meticulously observed and depicted, that emerges as the true star of the story, flawed, cruel, seductively engaging and all too human. This is its best evocation since Len Deighton's Winter."

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