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Children of Wrath (Willi Kraus Series) Hardcover – February 28, 2012

13 customer reviews
Book 2 of 3 in the Willi Kraus Series

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Editorial Reviews


“Brilliant . . . . Kraus . . . is an attractively complex lead. [For] fans of cerebral murder mysteries.”
       —Publishers Weekly [starred review]
(Library Journal)

“To call this book enjoyable or satisfying feels wrong, because the deeds are so ugly. But it’s terrifying and worthy. Human nature has never looked so raw.”
       —Kirkus Reviews [starred review]

“Grossman brings Willi and Weimar Berlin vividly to life in this gripping mystery. This should thrill readers of procedural and forensic crime fiction as well as those interested in this time period.”
       —Library Journal
(Associated Press)

“All-stops-out action scenes . . . melded with a subtle and fascinating look at Jews in Berlin just before the Nazi menace took hold for good.”
(Jewish Book World)

“Invokes the past in a masterful and authentic way. . . . [His first novel] received many accolades, and Grossman proves [that] was no fluke.”
       —Associate Press

“This is a complex, multi-layered, and beautifully written novel that does an equally fine job of telling a tale and providing historical context.”
      —Jewish Book World
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

PAUL GROSSMAN is the critically acclaimed author of The Sleepwalkers and Children of Wrath. He is a  long time teacher of writing and literature at the City University of New York. Visit him at his website at


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Product Details

  • Series: Willi Kraus Series (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312601913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312601911
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Audible Audio Edition
Published by HighBridge Audio in April of 2012.
Read by Kyle Munley.
Duration: 12 hours, 13 minutes.

Paul Grossman's Children of Wrath is a dark detective story set in one of the most tragic situations in all of history: The Weimar Republic in the weeks before the rise of the Nazis. A series of murders of boys combined with the impending failure of Germany's experiment with democracy, the collapse of the American stock market and the open street fighting between the Nazis and the Communists makes this tragic piece drip with a sense of the impending descent of Germany into the madness that enveloped it after the Nazis took command.

Willi Kraus is the only Jewish detective in the Berlin police force (and perhaps all of Germany). He is a decorated veteran of World War I but his country treats him with no respect because he is Jewish. His fellow detectives refuse to be his partner. His supervisor gives him insulting jobs. In this story he is re-assigned from a murder case (a burlap bag of bones from a boy with teeth marks on them is found washed up from a sewer line) to investigate an outbreak of Listeria that has killed consumers of pork sausage, with the implied insult of having a Jewish detective investigate a case involving the famously non-Kosher pork product.

But, as Willi digs into his new case he finds hints that the two cases might actually be connected and he starts his own private investigation as more and more boys go missing and more bones are found. While Kraus investigates, Grossman gives the reader a series of foreshadowings of the horrors and atrocities that await Germany. The railroad cars that come from Poland filled with hogs and cattle to the butchers in Germany will soon enough come full of people headed for slaughter.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Paul Grossman's "Children of Wrath" is set in Berlin between the two World Wars. From 1914-1924, Germany was devastated by hyperinflation and fiscal chaos. Afterwards, an interval of prosperity ensued. No one expected the disastrous economic downturn that would send Germany into a tailspin and help set the stage for the rise of National Socialism. The protagonist, thirty-four year old Sergeant-Detektiv Willi Kraus of the Berlin Kriminal Polizei, has a great deal on his mind. Although he is a decorated combat veteran and a skilled policeman, he has to cope with his colleagues' anti-Semitic slurs. In addition, the normally unflappable Kraus is shocked when a sewer backup at the bottom of a construction pit reveals "a real horror show": a burlap sack containing children's bones fashioned into grisly jewelry. Who would abduct and kill little boys and use their body parts in this macabre fashion? Willi is eager to capture the fiend responsible for this atrocity and bring him to justice.

The first half of the novel is promising. Grossman sets the stage expertly, revealing the ugliness and depravity of a city considered to be one of Europe's cultural capitals. While the upper classes dress in fine clothing, stay in grand hotels, and eat in trendy restaurant, homeless children roam the streets, desperate for a bite to eat. There is some fine descriptive writing, an insightful analysis of how and why the citizenry put their faith in Hitler, and a ghoulish criminal conspiracy. A recurring theme of animals being herded to the slaughter is a metaphor for the men, women, and children who would, in the future, be transported in cattle cars to concentration camps. The monstrous crimes committed in these pages are a fitting prelude to the collective madness that will engulf Germany.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gail Apfel on October 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Children of Wrath was one of the most engrossing books I have read in a long time. It is a well written, well researched novel of pre World War II Germany. Truly a book to read more than once. I bought Children of Wrath for my Kindle, only to discover that Grossman had written another which was almost a pre-quill to this because he makes reference to characters and events, but that doesn't really matter. When I was reading, I really didn't want to put it down. I loved the interaction between the characters, and the historical references make the book come alive. This book could be considered to "a back to the future" in a the way. It really makes you look back in time and wish people had paid more attention to what was going on back then.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In 1929 as the world economies collapse due to the failures of the finance system, Berlin police Detective Willi Kraus struggles with the anti-Semitism of his Aryan peers and superiors. Ebbing of flood water leaves a burlap sack behind. Kraus looks inside and sees boiled human bones macabrely sewed together bound together by thread made from muscle tissue and a bible extract circling the phrase "children of wrath". However, his being Jewish has his boss assign him an inquiry into tainted sausages that has poisoned hundreds.

Though he knows his heritage and religion has left him in precarious danger of being fired, Kraus works the human bones case without official sanctioning and over the objection of his wife who fears his actions will harm their children as the Nazis meteoric rise to power uses the Jews as their fuel. Kraus soon concludes this Kinderfesser Child Eater cannot do it alone

Fans who read The Sleepwalkers, which occurs in 1932, know the outcome of the horrific Kinderfresser serial killings, but that will not matter as this is a great historical mystery. The storyline brings to life the Weimer Republic at a time when the Great Depression has devastated global economics even more so in Germany and the Nazis are beginning to rise to power. With a Jeffrey Dahmer type killer based on a statue in Bern, readers will relish the actions of the diligent Jewish police detective working a particularly nasty case in a hostile prejudicial environment that threatens his family as much as himself.

Harriet Klausner
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