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Babylon Berlin: Book 1 of the Gereon Rath Mystery Series (Gereon Rath Mystery Series, 1) Paperback – January 23, 2018
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"The first in a series that’s been wildly popular in Germany is an excellent police procedural that cleverly captures the dark and dangerous period of the Weimer Republic before it slides into the ultimate evil of Nazism."―Kirkus Reviews
"James Ellroy fans will welcome Kutscher’s first novel and series launch, a fast-paced blend of murder and corruption sent in 1929 Berlin. Kutscher keeps the surprises coming and doesn't flinch at making his lead morally compromised."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Volker Kutscher, who wrote the novels on which the series is based, has a similar disregard for the sanctity of his characters' lives as Thrones' George R. R. Martin." ―The Spectator (UK)
"Conjures up the dangerous decadence of the Weimar years, with blood on the Berlin streets and the Nazis lurking menacingly in the wings."―The Sunday Times (London)
"Gereon's inquiries drag him through the mire of Berlin's underworld and the chaos of the politics of the period. Riveting and atmospheric."―Library Journal
"Gripping evocative thriller set in Berlin's seedy underworld during the roaring Twenties. A massive hit in its native Germany, Volker Kutscher's series, centered on Detective Inspector Gereon Rath, is currently being filmed for television."―Mail on Sunday (London)
About the Author
- Publisher : Picador; Media tie-in edition (January 23, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250187044
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250187048
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.59 x 0.76 x 8.29 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #264,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The TV show hurtles out of the blocks and never slows down. The book plods a bit. It’s a good police procedural but less special. I gather the TV show folded elements of the second book into the first. There was just a lot more going on in that.
Here, Gereon Rath is not on a special detachment from Cologne to Berlin as he is on TV. Needing a fresh start after a police-shooting scandal, he has moved here and, with his high-ranking police official father’s influence, gotten hired as a detective with the Berlin police. For now, he’s in Vice. He hopes to get on homicide.
There’s no mention of an affair with his brother’s widow, and the brother’s back story is different as well. Rath isn’t shell-shocked and morphine-addicted, as on TV; he joined the military near the war’s end but never saw combat. On TV, he’s more a hero, with his failings, such as his PTSD-related addiction and his affair with his sister-in-law, rationalized. Here in the book, he’s more an anti-hero, driven more by ambition and trying to prove himself, messing up his burgeoning relationship with Charlotte Ritter once she decides he used her to get inside investigative information.
The gold being smuggled, the Communist infighting, the left-wing demonstrations that turn violent, our cross-dressing countess - they’re all here, as is the brewing right-wing coup, Rath’s partner Bruno, and Rath’s landlady the lonely widow. A lot of the elements wind up differently, though.
And things between him and Charlotte get started much faster. Here, her nickname is “Charly” - very American flapper - while on TV it was “Lotte”, much more German, and there’s also little mention in the book of her impoverished family.
Still, I look forward to the second book. Understanding pre-Nazi Germany helps you understand what came later. And there's a special dimension to reading works in translation. What it loses in clarity it makes up for in authenticity.
Kutscher's Weimar Berlin is much more gritty than Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther mysteries ( Berlin Noir: Penguin eBook (Bernie Gunther Mystery 1) ), although the political nuance and struggles with Kutscher play a much more subtle role - and the "Golden Twenties" of Berlin are highlighted much more clearly. The story (for those unfamiliar with it) concerns a cop, Gereon Rath, newly reassigned to Berlin's police after a scandal in his native Cologne. Rath, seeking advancement and recognition, begins an independent investigation into a murder that quickly escalates into a web of intrigue: stolen Russian gold from a family fleeing the Soviets, the growing National Socialist movement, Berlin's criminal underground, and of course the on-gong political battles between the socialists and fascists. The story is complex and fast-paced. A recommended read.
However I have multiple questions about Gereon Rath.
This will deal with stuff revealed early, I doubt there are any plot spoilers.
Rath is the son of a high ranking Cologne police official who shot a man who has gone off his rocker and onto a shooting rampage. The man was the son of a Cologne publisher and said publisher holds Gereon personally responsible, wages a smear campaign against him and his father has him transferred to Berlin via connections there. I do not know how a publisher wages a smear campaign without publishing which should have been read in police stations across Germany but maybe it can be done.
No one in Berlin learns squat about him. He is the mysterious man from Cologne. He annoys people, causes more trouble within the police than he is worth and no one picks up a phone to find out where the jerk came from. It is clear that he is protected by the big Berlin boss but apparently Cologne is so far away that no one calls anyone there,no one happens to travel thru and drop in on the Cologne CID office and ask "why has Gereon Rath moved to Berlin?" or even check the command structure list of the Cologne police where they might find another Rath quite near the top.
Give me a break, they are Prussians; they read organization charts for light reading when Hertha is on a losing streak . Sad to know that this series is behind a top TV production. Hopefully it has been massively rewritten.
Top reviews from other countries
What the book does have going for it is its setting: Berlin in 1929, the decadent Weimar Republic under stress from the extremes of Communism and fascism. Gereon Rath is a detective transferred to the Berlin police to avoid the consequences of a scandal in Cologne (the supposed differences in accents and customs between the two cities must surely come off better in the original German). He is smart and tenacious but is incapable of following orders or getting along with his superiors: to some readers he may appear a dashing rebel, but to me he comes across as wilfully stupid.
The series is quite popular in Germany but if more novels are published in English I am unlikely to be among their readers.