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.
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.
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.