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Berlin by Pierre Frei

Berlin (2003)

by Pierre Frei

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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155477,049 (3.76)3



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A strange mixture of a book - on the one hand it is a hunt for a serial killer in Berlin just after the end of WW2, but each killing allows the author to tell us the story of the victim, before moving on with the hunt. These digressions are fairly lengthy, but always readable. It is only when I came to write this review that I became aware that the translator is the wonderful Anthea Bell [of Asterix fame] and I am sure she contributes to the readability. The stories are all sad, but one in particular made me very sad [I will leave you to work this out if you read it]. The 1945 characters are a bit wooden, especially the Americans, but overall I enjoyed it. ( )
  johnwbeha | Jul 5, 2016 |
A murderer attacks in post-war Berlin. Together the new German police and the American occupation troops look for him. It's very interesting how the author explores the lives of the victims in Nazi Germany. ( )
  Adolphogordo | Jan 22, 2009 |
I read this book for a RL fiction book group. I enjoyed it very much. It was a quick read, because the story made me keep turning the pages.

The story was about a serial killer who was killing blonde, blue-eyed German girls. It was set in Berlin, after the war was over. The killings took place in the American sector, and were near the place where the Americans had set up their fenced-in official enclave. The victims worked for the occupation forces and were killed just outside the fence. What was left of the German police in that area was in charge of investigating, with some-time American help, hindrance and observation.

The story was structured a bit oddly. There was the present day with the killings that ran throughout the book, but set into it was the story of each victim as she was found. It told who she was and how she ended up dead. It went back to see their lives before and during the war, as well as how they ended up working for the Americans. Many of the minor people in the backstories were connected to each other, so you learned about their lives too as you saw them in the background of the various victims' lives.

Although this is a mystery, it isn't really a thriller type. It was more a look at the lives that were destroyed by the war, and how small actions had large ripples. In many cases the killer just finished the job that the war had started of killing these people. Overall it was very sad, because their lives had started to look better, and then they were dead.

The writer did a good job with the setting, and developing the characters. He also showed how tough it was during and after the war for the average German. There were good and bad Germans and Americans. It didn't white-wash the atrocities, but it also showed the liberators as people who were wrapped up in themselves and didn't always care about the suffering of the conquered Germans. From the Americans there was only a small amount of maliciousness, mostly they were too clueless and selfish to care about how they were impacting others. Of course the Russians came across as animals, so they aren't really part of the equation, and were only in the story briefly.

The book presented antisemitism as being on both sides, and that there were also those who were against it on both sides. One of the women was connected with a camp, and so the author showed small glimpses of what was done. Another of the women was a nurse and was in a hospital for the 'defective' and it showed that others were also subject to the final solution.

The story focused on the individuals and their problems and how they tried with decency and dignity to do what was right, but that they always had to balance that with the need to survive and to keep friends and family alive too.

The book was very earthy so there is a lot of blunt talk about sex, and rape. Not sure if I approve or not. I am not a prude but the killer was sexually assaulting the victims first, and to talk abut it each time, to me bordered a bit on the gratuitous side.

This book was written in another language and translated, so there are some problems, but that isn't the author or the book's fault.

Some words are not translated, or into something the translator knows but the rest of us may not (Zander - Some kind of Fish ?). British English is used in several places so that might be the problem with the unexplained terms. Some sentences make no sense at all, and there are a lot of German names and place-names. The US publisher was too cheap to get an American to clean it up, which is too bad because there are readers who will hold it against the book.

The other issue is the pacing, which may be the author's fault (unless the translator just removed the connecting passages). There would be a conversation between some characters, and then the next line was a jump somewhere else with different people. There needed to be something to set up the change and put some distance between scenes. But once you knew that was an issue, it was easier to notice when the story jumped. ( )
  FicusFan | May 11, 2008 |
Showing 3 of 3
La caída del Reich y la derrota definitiva de Alemania han transformado la fisonomía de Berlín, que ahora es una ciudad ocupada por los cuatro ejércitos de los vencedores. Un muchacho de quince años que vive cerca de la estación de metro Onkel Toms Hütte, en el sector estadounidense, encuentra el cadáver de una joven rubia de ojos azules. La mujer presenta señales inequívocas de haber sido brutalmente asesinada. Ella será la primera de una serie de víctimas que solamente tienen en común su aspecto físico. Cada una tenía una vida por delante, que se ha visto prematuramente interrumpida. Ahora ya nadie duda de que la policía se enfrenta a un asesino en serie, que se mueve en una ciudad marcada por la muerte. Berlín, 1945 es una absorbente, elegante y atípica novela policíaca que, además, trasciende el género negro para ofrecernos un descarnado retrato de una ciudad y de sus habitantes, ahora destrozados por la guerra, que no hace tanto vivieron tiempos mejores, aunque parezca que ya haya pasado una eternidad.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pierre Freiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bell, AntheaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802143296, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Occupied Berlin, 1945, American Sector. A young man inadvertently uncovers the body of a beautiful young woman trapped under a subway station: she has been sexually abused and strangled with a chain. In the scramble to identify the body, the victim is mistaken for an American and a local investigation becomes a matter for the US Military police. When the bodies of other young women are discovered it becomes clear that this is no isolated act of violence. Daring, atmospheric and taut, Pierre Frei has fashioned a gripping thriller from the wreckage of Berlin. There is a powerful pulse buried deep in the rubble. The fighting may be over, but the killing goes on.… (more)

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