4.2 7
by Pierre Frei

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.
Library Journal
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.
School Library Journal
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 HarlanCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sprawling thriller set amid the hard times and horrors of pre- and post-World War II Germany. There's a killer on the loose in postwar Berlin-one with a predilection for blue-eyed German blondes. Already he's murdered a series of women, first sexually assaulting them and then choking them with a chain. And unless American MP John Ashburner and German inspector Klaus Dietrich can stop him, he'll no doubt kill again. In the meantime, Ben, Dietrich's son, is adapting nicely to life under occupation, scamming all manner of suckers as he tries to get together the cash he needs to woo local hottie Heidi R"del. And let's not forget the victims. With each killing, Frei offers a decade's worth of backstory, cataloguing each of the slain women's pasts (paying, in occasionally cringe-inducing language, particular attention to their sexual histories). In detailing these pasts, the author weaves an evocative portrait of Berlin and Germany before and during the war-the rise of Hitler, the first hints of concentration camps, a people's slow slide into depravity. Unfortunately, Frei seems never to have known just what sort of book he wanted to write. Is it a coming-of-age story? A set of character sketches? A study of German society in the years before the war? As for it being a mystery-the investigative scenes are about as brief and perfunctory as they come. The question isn't so much whodunit, as who cares?Unfocused, and unsatisfying as a whole.

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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Berlin 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
William_BN More than 1 year ago
I love a good storyteller. The plot in this book is utterly insignificant to the story itself. You will meet five women who are smart, sexy, witty and inventive survivors while at the same time giving you a feel for what it was like to be a German living in Berlin during the period from about 1933 to 1945. I wish I could have met five more. You will also follow a young conniving teen obsessed with two objects of his desire. This is a book for that long cross country plan ride, that rainy or snowed in weekend. Relax settle back and enjoy. This is not a heavy, mysterious or cumbersome read. This is escapism. Lose yourself in this book and you will thoroughly enjoy the time spent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found the book to be totally captivating. It is not just a who donit, but a story of the women who were murdered. It gave character and humanity to them they were not just victims. I enjoyed it thoroughly and have recommeded the book to many of my patrons.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It has been awhile since I have read this book, maybe 7 years, but it's a book I still think about. The story caught me from the beginning and never let go. I enjoy historical fiction, especially WWll stories but this gave such a unique encounter. Each story was intriguing in its own right. I recommend if you enjoy a good murder mystery that holds your attention till the bitter end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cynrunner More than 1 year ago
The author is indeed talented creating his characters. Loved learning about each one but then they each would get brutally killed for no rhyme or reason. The same theme followed throughout the whole entire book. Too bad he did not take just one or two of the characters and create a "whole" story about their lives. Would have loved to read a coherent story about these people's lives back then because this writer is really a good writer! I was disappointed and would not recommend this book to anyone. Sorry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent mystery by a fine writer LLL
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent. Grabs your attention right from the start and doesn't let you go. The description of post war Berlin mixed with investigators'search for a serial killer makes this definitely worth reading.