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The Informer: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 16, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307236935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307236937
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,716,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 1930 Berlin, this fine novel from Nova (The Good Son) smoothly combines crime and politics. Armina Treffen, who works for the serious crimes section of the Berlin police department and has a successful track record catching serial killers, goes after a fiend who strangles his female victims and leaves their abused bodies in the Tiergarten. Treffen's investigation is interwoven with the story of the title character, Gaelle, a 22-year-old prostitute with an alluring facial scar from a car accident, and her 16-year-old pimp, Felix. A mysterious gentleman, Bruno Hauptmann (not to be confused with the man executed for kidnapping the Lindbergh baby), recruits Gaelle to pass along any information about what, say, the Communists are up to that she might pick up on the job. While those expecting a conventional police procedural may be disappointed, the author's evocative portrait of Weimar Germany and sophisticated portrayals of the lead characters will satisfy most readers. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Nova, known for challenging literary fiction, turns here to a thriller set in Berlin in 1930, as the Weimar Republic slouches toward its own particular Armageddon. Like Philip Kerr, Jonathan Rabb, and others, Nova finds in Berlin before the war the perfect breeding ground for noir—a decadent society slipping deeper into the muck while a repressive alternative prepares to take control. Nova focuses his story on two women, one a detective searching for a serial killer, the other a special kind of Weimar-era prostitute, a Gravelstone (a woman with a deformity that possesses erotic appeal). The prostitute, Gaelle, is also an informer, selling tidbits of information to all who ask—Communists, Nazis, the police. The cop, Armina, feels personally violated by the killings, all of prostitutes, and is determined to solve the case, despite the encouragement of her boss to leave it alone. Nova’s main concern is the complex interplay among his characters, but he develops the suspense nicely, too, flashing forward to Berlin in 1945 for a peculiar but effective finale, the city’s post-Armageddon rubble providing the inevitable flip side to Weimar’s forced gaiety. An entrancing mood piece. --Bill Ott

More About the Author

Craig Nova is the award-winning author of twelve novels and one autobiography. His latest novel is THE INFORMER, a literary thriller set in 1930s Berlin.

Nova's writing has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, and Men's Journal, among others. He has received an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2005 he was named Class of 1949 Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

"Craig Nova is a fine writer, one of our best," writes Jonathan Yardley, book critic for the Washington Post. "If you haven't read him, the loss is yours." "He's a novelist who has yet to write a supermarket bestseller...but he has written at least two American classics that will likely resonate after his death, the way the poor-selling 'Great Gatsby' did for poor ol' F. Scott Fitzgerald," writes David Bowman of Salon.com.

Nova's life has been a plethora of experience, almost like something straight out of Hollywood -- where Nova, coincidence or not, was raised. From rebellious and alienated youth in the Hollywood Hills to graduation from University of California at Berkeley during the turbulent 1960s; from starving artist years in New York City to a placid and content writing life in more rustic parts, Nova's rich experience has made him "an artist in full command," as Yardley says.

Raised during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Nova was unfazed by the star-studded environment of his childhood. "Like all kids, I thought that my immediate surroundings were perfectly natural and that the whole world was just like Hollywood," says Nova. "In fact, I think my entire life has been spent correcting this misperception, or at least realizing that there is a difference between the way things appear and the way they really are.

"I remember playing with Jayne Mansfield's daughter when I was about eight, and racing Steve McQueen on Mulholland when I was 16," recounts Nova. As a teenager, he attended the famed and celebrity saturated Hollywood High. There he, with most of the Mouseketeers as classmates, lived out his share of youthful rebellion.

Nova made up for those minor transgressions by being a diligent student at the University of California at Berkeley, from which he graduated just weeks before the Summer of Love. "When I was there, someone in the state senate stood up and said, 'A course at Berkeley is a course in sex, drugs, and treason.' I have to say he was damn right."

After graduation, Nova moved to New York City and attended Columbia University, where his writing ambitions flourished. There at Columbia, he met Jean Stafford, a profound influence who introduced him to "the writing life." Upon publishing his first book, Turkey Hash in 1975, Nova won the Harper Saxton prize, putting him in the ranks of such esteemed writers as Sylvia Plath and James Baldwin. "I assumed that when it was published, it would change my life," he says, "Of course, not a lot happened. I ended up driving a taxicab in New York."

The years between Nova's first and third novel found him struggling, not only to write, but also to survive. He worked a variety of odd jobs constantly balancing attempts to support himself with his writing endeavors. In addition to driving a cab, his diverse experiences included carpentering in SoHo and managing a small real estate empire. "There were some very hard times here, going hungry, ending up on the street, broke," Nova recollects. "I find it hard to remember the will it took to go on writing under those circumstances."

During Nova's early years in New York City, he met his wife Christina at a party. Describing their first encounter in his memoir Brook Trout and the Writing Life, Nova writes, "Like all chance meetings that turn out differently than one supposes, I almost did not go to this party." To get away from the city, he and Christina would venture up to her small house in the country on weekends with increasing frequency. Christina gave him his first fly rod, with which he caught a brook trout during one of their escapades to the house. The brook trout, then merely a fish, would go on to reappear throughout Nova's life, serving as a powerful link between intimate events and, eventually, giving the title to his memoir. Of his and Christina's decision to wed, he writes, "We planned to get married, and then we did."

Nova's fourth book, The Good Son, received a substantial advance from the publisher and met almost universal critical acclaim. When the young couple decided to leave New York City for a more serene life in the country, Christina quit her job at CBS, where she had been working in television news. "I managed the land as a tree farm, and I have to say this was one of the most happy times in my life," Nova recalls. "I'd write in the morning and then work in the woods in the afternoons. And when I saw something in the woods, bears, deer, rugged grouse, foxes, they found a way into the book I was writing."

After having two daughters, Craig and Christina moved to Vermont, where their kids went to school and he went on to write another five or six novels. "This was a lovely time, too, in that I would write in the morning and afternoon, and then cook for the children and Christina. Idyllic, in a way, but the difficulty of course is the nature of the writing life," Nova says. "You are either on your way up or on your way down and this endlessly changing prospect made for a continual uneasiness."

During this time, Nova worked on magazine assignments to fulfill his dreams of going to places he'd wanted to see and picked up plenty of inspiration along the way: "I went to the equatorial Pacific, went fly fishing in Austria and on the San Juan River, flew with bush pilots...all of which came in handy in the writing of novels." He wrote screenplays for Touchstone Pictures and Behavior, a Canadian company.

"When my children went away to college, I realized that I had some extra time on my hands," says Nova. "I thought it would be a good idea to share some of what I had learned after those years alone in a room." In 2005 he was offered an endowed chair at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and accepted. There, he serves as 1949 Distinguished Professor of the Humanities.

Nova writes for Esquire, The Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine, and Men's Journal, among others. He has received an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and is a recipient of a Guggenheim award. He and Christina live in North Carolina.

As for the brook trout, Nova writes, "these fish are forever associated in my mind with the depths of thankfulness for good fortune, just as they always reminded me of beauty and a sense of what may be possible after all." He continues to fish for brook trout.

Customer Reviews

An absolutely brilliant novel!
Ron E. Kendricks
I like this; he might as well be summing up the theme of the entire book, or indeed the Zeitgeist of those doomed times.
Roger Brunyate
As with all good novels, the plot of Nova's latest is both simple and complicated.
BookLover59

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on March 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In 1930 Berlin Police Department Serious Crimes Section Homicide Investigator Armina Treffen is the best cop at catching serial killers. Her current case involves brutal strangulation of women whose battered bodies are dumped in the Tiergarten.

Treffen knows she needs insider help so turns to twenty-two year old hooker Gaelle, who is warned by her teen pomp Felix to stay away from the cop. While Treffen seemingly fails to recruit Gaelle to be her eyes and ears on the streets, Bruno Hauptmann hires Gaelle as a personal informant to inform him of any information she picks up from her Johns. Soon the three pulls on Gaelle will collide with the serial killer being the force behind the crash.

The Informer is more a historical thriller than a German police procedural as Craig Nova provides a powerful look at Depression Era Weimar Republic through a focus on the cast. Gaelle steals the show from the cop, the pimp, the killer and the client with her distrust of all. Insight into her psyche makes for a fabulous dark tale as readers obtain a deep look into a prostitute at a time when economically depressed Germany is in transition with no options except the street for Gaelle.

Harriet Klausner
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Barnes on April 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Craig Nova's latest novel, THE INFORMER, will have you on tenterhooks. The place is Berlin in 1930, where Germany's decaying Weimar Republic is crumbling so fast that remnants of its flag find use as tablecloths. Both the Reds and their opposition, the Brown Shirts, will stop at nothing to grab power when the government fails. In the underbelly of the city there exists a fermenting mixture of spies, assassins, seasoned criminals and the usual assortment of sewer rats. It is a society foundering in brutality and depravity.

Police Investigator Armina Treffen is less preoccupied with politics at the moment than with tracking a serial killer who preys on young women. Though a miasma of corruption continually attempts to stifle her progress, she casts a wide net which brings her to Gaelle, a scarred prostitute whose burns have cauterized her emotions as well as disfiguring her face.

Galle is desperate for some kind of protection other than the lame hooligan who acts as her pimp. Her search for security leads her to all the wrong places and makes her a target for murder. Who will reach her first, the political executioners, the serial murderer or the authorities?

The author is a master at evoking the sense of disintegration that permeates the daily life of the city. Thanks to his superb writing, the reader smells the city's damp streets, dreads its shadows and knows the weight of its impending fate.

Fans of Alan Furst and Stieg Larsson will greet this book with pleasure.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen W. on March 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Informer by Craig Nova puts yet another notch on the belt of an author with an already stellar body of work that so many people have not yet been fortunate enough to discover. Currently, I am reading The Congressman's Daughter and recently, I finished his most recent novel before The Informer -- Cruisers -- and I can't help but be simultaneously addicted to the elegant restraint of his prose and the raw power with which he delves into the human soul.

In The Informer, Nova takes readers to Berlin in 1930 -- where politics are becoming increasingly polarized, the economy is in shambles, and information is constantly manipulated and distorted for individuals and groups to leverage power against one another (sound like the state of affairs in the U.S. today?)

The plot follows Armina, one of the few women working in Inspectorate A, the serious crimes division of the Berlin police department, as she traverses the dark underbelly of the city, confronting its bizarre inhabitants. As Armina investigates, she encounters Gaelle, a young prostitute with a scarred face and alluring eroticism that allows her to slip in and out of the lives of politically connected men--many corrupt, some sinister, all looking for power, money, and sex. Gaelle and her partner Felix, a boy hustler with a lame foot, know the value of a secret, and also its price, in the depraved, cosmopolitan city.

With the discovery of each new body, Armina identifies more closely with the murders, almost as if she is losing a part of herself with each crime. As she edges closer to the dangerous truth, the lines between true and false, friend and enemy, and good and evil begin to blur.

The Informer is at once startling and poignant. The characters invite you to wonder in the abysses of their souls. The setting is eerily reminiscent of that in which we live today. This book is one not to miss.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. Wright on March 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Informer is a thrilling and engaging novel in the tradition of Graham Greene and Alan Furst. With taut prose and a dark plot, Nova sets two characters - the scarred yet appealing prostitute, Gaelle, and the police inspector, Armina, on a collision course amid the backdrop of 1930s Berlin.

Nova masterfully develops in The Informer the intrigue and suspense that you expect from the best literary thrillers. Fans of Furst's spy novels as well as detective thrillers from the likes of Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Henning Mankell (the Kurt Wallender mysteries), Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjowall (The Laughing Policeman) will feel right at home reading The Informer. Highly recommended.
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