Babylon Berlin

This is the first book of a series written by the German author Volker Kutscher. It was first published in German in 2007. The English translation did not come out until 2016.

The story follows Detective Inspector Gereon Rath, newly transferred to Berlin from Cologne and stuck in E Division, vice, instead of A Division where his murder investigation skills were needed.

The year is 1929 and Germany is finally out of its great depression, even as the rest of the world is dropping into one. Vice is rampant, but so is murder. Rath is able to uncover both in one big visit and get transferred to A where he is able to track an elusive murderer.

The book is filled with the atmosphere of Berlin before the Nazi takeover. As is usual when reading a translation, there are terms that can’t or shouldn’t be translated, but few of them present any problem with following the story. Just keep reading.

I do think Kutscher tried to put too much into one story. The plot is complex and Kutscher tended to give us important information and not get back to it for fifty pages. I had to wonder at times what he was referring to. In the end, I could see how all the seeming side excursions came together, but it was hard to follow sometimes.

I don’t know how many novels there are in the series, but there is a TV miniseries based on them. There are 4 English versions out as of now. This first book is 423 pages long in paperback, and I just checked book for on Amazon–544 pages. It’s a little tougher read than most, but the slice of history alone is worth the time.

Mike Lawrence

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