Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyNot one but many treacherous encounters fill the pages of Junger's ( In Stahlgewittern ) fin de siecle detective story. In the first such, Gerhard zum Busche, a young German diplomat living in Paris, meets a decadent aristocrat named Ducasse. Gerhard's striking good looks and equally striking naivete provide Ducasse with the opportunity to commit mischief, and he loses little time in orchestrating the mesalliance of Gerhard with the volatile Irene, Countess Kargane. An assignation is followed by murder and an investigation by the sharp-witted Inspector Dobrowsky and his admiring sidekick Etienne. Junger's shimmering, imaginative writing is most evident at the novel's beginning in his marvelous portrait of Ducasse, who resembles a rather more disillusioned version of Alexander Lernet-Holenia's Count Maltravers. Armed only with his cynicism and his savoir vivre , Ducasse is the last practitioner of a gentlemanly decadence which itself is the faded reflection of a bygone social structure. If the second half of the novel devolves into a rather unsatisfying francophonic Holmes and Watson riff, its beginning is a clear indication of Junger's talent. Marsilio's decision to introduce his work--whether for the first time as is the case here, or in the upcoming new translation of the 1939 On the Marble Cliffs --is laudable. (Aug.)
Library JournalThe 98-year-old Junger is considered by some critics to be one of Germany's most distinguished writers, but his success during the Third Reich and his murky relationship to the Nazi state has caused him to be rejected by others. His interest in France, which goes back in part to the days of the Nazi occupation, here yields a fascinating mystery novel set in late 19th-century Paris. While the mystery itself is easily solved by any fan of the genre, Junger is highly successful in evoking the decadent and menacing atmosphere on the edges of the great metropolis. The novel's elegant economy of style is beautifully captured in Barr's translation. Recommended for general readers.-- Michael T. O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md.
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