Jonathan Rabb provides a fictional explanation of the murder of revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, who was imprisoned during WWI, released immediately after the war, and then killed. Rabb's superbly researched novel is gripping and offers a cogent, albeit hypothetical, explanation for Luxemburg's unsolved death. Simon Prebble is a superb choice of narrator, and he elevates the fascinating story to an even higher plane. The work requires a measured yet intense narrative style, which Prebble flawlessly provides, allowing Rabb's writing to shine. Prebble's portrayals of Detective Hoffner and Hans Fichte, a detective trainee, are superb as he captures their mixed emotions regarding the changes that take place in Berlin during the war and the political implications of Luxemburg's death.
Four women from the slums of Berlin have turned up dead, all with identical markings etched into their backs, and Hoffner and Fichte have spent the better part of six weeks trying to crack the bizarre case.
Things take a troubling turn when the political police begin to show an interest in Hoffner's investigation. Hoffner has no idea why the Polpo would want to get their hands dirty with a serial murderer, until he is shown the lifeless body of Rosa Luxemburg, the same eerie markings on her back. Rumors abound that Rosa, one of the leaders of the suppressed socialist uprising, was assassinated by an angry mob, but the pattern carved into her back tells a different story.
In his remarkable thriller, Jonathan Rabb paints a vivid, unforgettable picture of a city and a people poised between the chaos of the First World War and the darkness to come, a time when political thugs, petty thieves, and charismatic leaders rushed to fill the void left behind. Into this gap steps Hoffner, who, while battling his own personal demons, is still determined to find out who is preying on the women of Berlin, even as he gets drawn deeper into the mystery surrounding Rosa's death. Hoffner's search for the killer leads him on a dark and twisted journey through the battle-scarred streets of the city, where he soon discovers that nothing is as it appears. And while he finds allies in unexpected places, he is met at every turn by men who will stop at nothing to keep him from finding out the truth about Rosa.
©2005 Jonathon Rabb; (P)2009 Tantor
"Subtexts of love, betrayal and a detective at war with his feelings illuminate this gothic tapestry of anti-Semitism and ethnic elitism with its foreshadowing of the Nazi era." (Publishers Weekly)
"A wonderfully evocative novel about Berlin immediately after World War I." (Booklist)
It’s hard to know when a “thriller” becomes literature, but from the beginning of “Rosa,” I was captivated by Jonathan Rabb’s historical research and his ability to elevate the police procedural genre into quality writing. Lest there be any doubt about it, “Rosa” is an exciting, plot-driven detective story. What elevates it, however, is Rabb’s thorough grounding in the history of Germany for about the first six months following the end of WWI. Along with reading Rosa, I read several history entries from Wikipedia covering the characters and chronology of the plot, which, although unnecessary in order to enjoy this marvelous novel, did enhance my appreciation of the book. Yes, in addition to being entertained, I do like to feel that I’m learning something, especially when it’s this effortless! Rosa is the first book in a trilogy. I’ve already started “Shadow and Light,” the second book in the Detective Inspector Nikolai Hoffner series, and I’m well along to becoming hooked on the anti-hero Hoffner, and the times in which he lived. The narrator was perfect.
I was quite disappointed in this book. At times I got totally lost in it. I had hoped to learn more about the Death of Rosa Luxembourg - but she is just a side show. The mystery is all about who is carving up women and setting them up in a display in the city underground. There is a little too much emphasis on the psychological and lots of paragraphys devoted to the thoughts and emotions of the main character. I don't care for so much introspection in detective fiction. If you like that sort of book then you may well like this. I did not care for it. But let me add that the Narrator is FIRST RATE. Simon Prebble does a great job making a dull book very interesting although he cannot totally save it from the author;s style.
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