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The Second Son: A Novel (Detective Inspector Nikolai Hoffner) Paperback – January 3, 2012


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Product Details

  • Series: Detective Inspector Nikolai Hoffner (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250002389
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250002389
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,565,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 1936, Rabb's gripping conclusion to his Berlin noir trilogy featuring Chief Insp. Nikolai Hoffner (after Rosa and Shadow and Light) finds the 62-year-old Hoffner forced into retirement because the Nazis have discovered that his late mother was Jewish. Meanwhile, Hoffner's filmmaker second son, Georg, has left his wife and son in Berlin to travel to Barcelona, where the People's Olympics, games intended to protest the spectacle of Hitler's Olympics, are scheduled to take place. But the outbreak of civil war in Spain ensures that these alternative games never happen. Letters that Georg pens to his wife describing the conflicting factions—well-organized Fascists on the right, a motley array of socialists and anarchists on the left—will resonate with admirers of George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. After Georg goes missing, Hoffner embarks on a dangerous and perhaps quixotic search to bring his son safely home. Fans of Alan Furst and Philip Kerr will be rewarded. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Matters have taken a decided turn for the worse for former German police detective Nikolai Hoffner since the events described in Shadow and Light (2009). Sacked from the police because his dead mother was Jewish, Hoffner is living with his daughter-in-law in 1936 Berlin and bemoaning the fates of his two sons. Journalist Georg, the younger son, has disappeared after traveling to Barcelona to cover the People�s Olympics, an alternative event staged to protest Hitler�s Olympics. With his elder son, Sascha, a committed Nazi, Hoffner is determined not to lose his second son and embarks on a dangerous trek to civil war-torn Spain in hopes of rescuing Georg. The chaos of the war provides an evocative backdrop for this unlikely, noir-tinged story of a cynical father chasing after his idealistic son��an old German with no politics and a young Jew with no sense.� This is anything but an inspirational father-son novel. Nikolai�s own sense of personal futility is echoed perfectly by the absurdity of the war: �The world has never been so ready to declare its allegiances. They�ll all be shipping themselves into Spain by the truckload in the next weeks, every one of them with his arm raised in whatever salute suits him best. It�s a terrible thing to know how pointless it�s all going to be.� Yes, this is Alan Furst territory, but it will also resonate for readers of European antiwar fiction, from All Quiet on the Western Front to The Good Soldier Schweik. --Bill Ott --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

It is beautifully written.
K. Sozaeva
I have read this trilogy in order, one after the other, and feel that each installment was better than the last, making The Second Son the best.
W. Wedenoja
It's a gripping, compelling story and one not without moments of tension and action.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Second Son" completes Jonathon Raab's Berlin trilogy, taking protagonist Police Inspector Nikolai Hoffner, to 1936 Spain in search of his missing younger son, Georg. Hoffner has been forced out of the Berlin Police because of his partially Jewish parentage. Using his connections with the German criminal underground, he goes to Barcelona, stronghold of the Spanish Republican Government (but in the hands of the Anarchists and Communists) to track down his newsreel photographer son who vanished while on a film assignment. What follows is a dangerous road trip across Spain, crisscrossing belligerent lines, toward a destination that is as dark and tragic as can be found in the literature of any time period.

Author Raab has a special skill for evoking a sense of place, creating credible, tension-filled atmosphere and peopling his stories with very original characters. This was true with his earlier book, "Shadow and Light" and is even more the case with "The Second Son". Nikolai Hoffner's portable hell in this latter novel is palpable and inescapable. The sang froid disposition that has been his armor for years as Chief Inspector of the Berlin Criminal Police, isn't of much use to him as he progressively becomes aware of what danger his son faces in a civil war that has made cold-blooded killers out average men and women. The cynicism and bloody complicity of the European governments of the period are well described here. Ironically, it is the professional criminals who maintain a semblance of honor and humanity in the midst of the conflict, and are Hoffner's only hope of salvation.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. Konopka VINE VOICE on December 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the third book in what is called "The Berlin Trilogy" and in my opinion it is the best. That doesn't take anything away from the excellence of the two earlier works, but this one just stands head and shoulders above them.

The book begins in 1936, when Berlin is celebrating the Olympics, and Nikolai Hoffner has been summarily dismissed from the police because his grandmother was Jewish. On top of that, Georg, Nikolai's younger son, has disappeared while filming in a Spain on the brink of civil war. Naturally, Nikolai goes to Spain to find his son, and thereby hangs the tale.

There is movement across the Spanish landscape, and the war finally comes to a country torn apart by warring factions, with Nikolai and a female doctor caught up in everything. I don't want to tell any more of the plot, for that would be unfair to future readers of this fine book. Suffice it to say that the book shows love, longing, loneliness, heroism, and loss among other emotions. Read it for yourself and see what I mean; you won't be sorry.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Sozaeva VINE VOICE on March 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It is the dawning of the Third Reich and the eve of Hitler's Olympics when Nikolai Hoffner (first seen in "Rosa" and then again in "Shadow and Light") - half Jewish by blood - is "retired" by the Kriminalpolizei. He takes the opportunity to travel to Barcelona - where the "workers'" Olympics are being held in defiance of the Nazis - to try to find his youngest son, Georg, who has gone missing while there filming for the British Pathé Gazette. Hoffner follows Georg's trail, winding his way between the rebels (comprised of anarchists and Communists, mainly) and the fascists marching up into Spain from Morocco.

The story breathes life into that era, giving the reader a glimpse into what it was like to live in Spain during that time - one of the two sides generally in control of an area and the efforts of the people living there to go about their lives and remain unmolested. There are also beautiful descriptions of the Spanish landscape. Overall this book is about the journey, the people, and frequently focuses on the mundane. It is beautifully written. If you enjoy historical thrillers/suspense novels, or historically-based fiction at all, you will probably enjoy this book.

CAUTION: VAGUE SPOILERS

If you want a happy ending, though, read something else. While it is not unremittingly sad, this is a historical novel about a period in history where there were few things about which to be happy, and, realistically, this book does not end on a truly happy note. This is (according to the author) the final book in his Hoffner trilogy, containing this and the two books I mention above. Despite the ... shall I call it darkness?? ... of the overall series (I believe it is frequently described as "noir"), I can recommend it whole-heartedly to those who enjoy a good read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hrafnkell Haraldsson VINE VOICE on March 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I don't think anybody captures this period better than Jonathan Raab. I've read David Downing's Zoo Station, another excellent example of this genre, but Rabb has a way with words Downing lacks, an ability to set the scene with words that are very nearly poetry.

At its heart, I think, Rabb's books remind me of the East European literature I read at the university, stories of remembering and forgetting; stories of loss. It's not a light, up-lifting read, one that will set your soul to soaring, though it has its moments of tenderness and love, and of finding. But the background, the rise of the Nazi state, is such a bleak subject that any happiness must rise above not only the specific evils faced by the protagonists (and these are many) but the evils of the setting itself.

For those of you who have read Rabb's previous works in this series, The Second Son will come as no surprise to you. It is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy begun with Rosa and continued in Shadow and Light. Nikolai Hoffner, former Berlin police detective has found himself out of a job due to his Jewish blood, an altogether predictable starting point for this story and one that will surprise no one.

I do not wish to give away the details of the story by discussing what would necessarily be spoilers, but Hoffner has two children, sons both, one of whom (Sascha) joined the Nazi party in order to remake himself as an Aryan superman, while the other embraced his Jewishness (Georg - the Second Son).

Georg, in Spain to film a documentary, has gone missing, and Hoffner must find him. The introspection this engenders is what most reminds me of that East European literature. It is easy to grasp Hoffner's motives, his reasons for seeking Georg.
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