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Garden of Beasts: A Novel of Berlin 1936 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 20, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jeffery Deaver's Garden of Beasts introduces anti-hero Paul Schumann, a notorious rubout man for the New York Mafia known for his cold and professional approach to his job. But the jig is up when he is duped by high-ranking feds who give him a choice--prison or one more impossible job: assassinate the man who's running Hitler's plan for rearming Germany. The hard-nosed German-American lands on the streets of Berlin where immediately the best-laid plans of the United States Government go awry. Schumman finds himself in a city living in fear, tracked by Berlin's best homicide detective. As the intricate chase wears on, both men will discover that the greatest evil is the ascendant Nazi party.

Deaver's novel, equal parts noir thriller and historical extrapolation, is a page-turner that offers a twisting visceral experience of the tension in Berlin during that fateful summer. He draws sympathetic portraits of everyday Germans caught between duty to country and their consciences. Into this mix, Deaver drops his coldly dangerous hitman who brawls with brownshirts, chums with Olympic athletes, collaborates with criminals, fraternizes with poets, and discovers the hero inside his hardened soul. --Jeremy Pugh

Amazon.com Interview
When starting a new book by author Jeffery Deaver, expect to have the wool pulled over your eyes. His plots twist and turn and juke and jive like no others, never ending as expected and always including a jaw-dropping plot development. His latest effort, Garden of Beasts, is no exception. Amazon.com caught up with Deaver to discuss plotting, characters, and the perils of soap opera acting.

From Publishers Weekly

Deaver fans expect the unexpected from this prodigiously talented thriller writer, and the creator of the Lincoln Rhyme series and other memorable yarns (The Blue Nowhere, etc.) doesn't disappoint with his 19th novel, this time offering a deliciously twisty tale set in Nazi Berlin. The book's hero is a mob "button man," or hit man, Paul Schumann, who's nabbed in the act in New York City but given an alternative to the electric chair: to go to Berlin undercover as a journalist writing about the upcoming Olympics, in order to assassinate Col. Reinhard Ernst, the chief architect of Hitler's militarization, seen as a threat to American interests. A German spy onboard Paul's transatlantic liner grows suspicious and sends a warning to Germany before Paul discovers and kills him. Then in Berlin, Paul, en route to meet his contact, kills a second suspicious man who may be a storm trooper, setting Insp. Willi Kohl of the Berlin police, or Kripo, on his trail. Deaver weaves the three manhunts—Paul after his target, Kohl after Paul and the Nazi hierarchy after Paul—with a deft hand, bringing to frightening life the Berlin of 1936, a city on the brink of madness. Top Nazis, including Hitler, Himmler and Göring, make colorful cameos, but it's the smart, shaded-gray characterizations of the principals that anchor the exciting plot. An affecting love affair between Paul and his German landlady goes in surprising directions, as do the main plot lines, which move outside Berlin as heroes become villains and vice versa. This is prime Deaver, which means prime entertainment.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (July 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743222016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743222013
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,534,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard Wells on August 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There are many reasons to recommend Jeffrey Deaver's, "Garden of Beasts," the first among them being it is a good story, well told.

Mr. Deaver has taken a few fictionalized days in the history of the real, mixed compelling characters and events, forced us to confront both the malign and altruistic workings of the human heart, and the corruption of an entire nation - quite a weighty accomplishment.

"Garden of Beasts," is a cat-and-mouse page turner pitting a German-American "button man" with a heart of gold, and searching for redemption, against an intrepid German detective - also with a heart of gold - in the milieu of pre-War Nazi Berlin. Also featured are American politicians and industrialists, the hierarchy of the Nazi Party, innocents struggling to keep body and soul together, and the petty criminals that make their living in a society turned topsy-turvy. One of these criminals - oddly enough also with a heart of gold - helps add an element of "buddy story" to the whole. Mr. Deaver has done his research, paints a detailed picture of the city, and forces us to confront the manipulative rot of Nazism that uses fear and bigotry to corrupt an entire country. He does a remarkable job of showing us the beast in humanity, and humanity in the beast - to the extent that I wondered if some might find the monsters a little too likable. Not to fear, though, Mr. Deaver - at least in this book - is nothing if not a moralist of high order.

Recommended as a page-turner, and as an insightful study of good, evil, and the land that lies between.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had come to expect a certain type of novel from this author (one that gives you trouble sleeping) and was delighted to find that he is much more than a one trick pony. In Garden of Beasts, Deaver takes us back to 1936 and I mean he takes us back. Edward R. Murrow used to have a television show, as I recall, entitled "You are There." in which the viewer was taken back to an historic event. Well, after reading this book, you will have a pretty clear picture of Germany in the days of the Hitler ascendancy. It is not a pretty picture.

Paul Schumann, a NY mob hitman is given the choice of going to prison or traveling to Germany to asassinate one of Hitlers most important ministers. If he does so and makes his way out, he is promised money and a new life by our government. Shumann opts for a future which does not involve prison.

Traveling as a reporter to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Schumann is not even off the boat before things start happening which complicate his life and his task. And it just keeps getting more complicated. Let Deaver take you by the hand as you traverse the Garden of Beasts. You will hate to put the book down, look forward to returning to the story and will appreciate the well thought out ending.
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Format: Hardcover
Jeffrey Deaver's "Garden of Beasts" is more an ingenious historical caper, featuring 1936 Berlin and a large international cast of historical and fictional characters, than a chilling suspense thriller. This unusual novel makes for a refreshing change of pace, and is a delightful page turner with some very tense moments. There are actually two fascinating protagonists here. One is German American freelance hitman, Paul Schumann - or as they say in 1930's crime lingo, a "button man." The other is Kripo (Police) Inspector Willi Kohl, a regular Berliner Sherlock Holmes. The Kripo is pre-War Germany's professional police force which lost much of its power to Himmler's Gestapo in 1933, after Hitler rose to power. Inspector Kohl is a dedicated professional with an excellent understanding of irony. He is not a fan of National Socialism, and seems to pull pertinent clues out of thin air from time-to-time. Deaver packs this book chock-full of period detail which gives a rich texture to the narrative.

Paul Shumann may murder for a living, but he does have a conscious. He only takes "righteous assignments," killing those who are themselves evil and deserve to be wiped out. A former contract employee of "Lucky" Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegal and "Deanie" O'Banion, Shumann never says he kills for a living. He uses "touch-off" as a job description. "It was a phrase that Sergeant Alvin York used to describe killing enemy soldiers during the War. It makes Paul feel less like a punk to use a term that a war hero did." He is meticulous about his work and is known as a brilliant tactician, until he gets caught! The folks who finally nab him are US Navy Intelligence honchos and a US Senator. They want to make a deal.
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Format: Hardcover
Garden of Beasts blends the forensic-savvy detective story, for which five-time Edgar Award nominee Deaver is best known, with the historical spy thriller. The result is a cunningly constructed and very readable page-turner filled with intriguing characters in a fascinating setting.

Paul Schumann, an American ex-soldier and boxer turned button man, is made a one-time offer: assassinate Reinhard Ernst, Hitler's rearmament czar, or be handed over to mob-busting prosecutor Tom Dewey. Schumann, fluent in German, travels to Berlin with the Olympic team, but on his first attempt to meet his contact, he finds himself at the wrong end of a pistol. Soon he's fleeing from the scene, a corpse in his wake and a clever cop on his trail.

The cop, Willi Kohl, is as astute a picker-up of clues as Sherlock Holmes, but without Holmes's tendency to quantum-leap to conclusions. He's also a politically neutral member of the Kripo (Kriminal Polizei), so his homicide investigation is considered less important by the police hierarchy than the work of the Gestapo in tracking down dissidents, and he has to wait an inordinate amount of time for autopsies, fingerprint matching, and other forensics. Despite this setback, and Schumann's considerable skill and care at covering his tracks, Kohl and his protégé are rarely more than a step behind the button man.

Just when you think this is going to be a fairly straightforward Day of the Jackal type race between assassin and detective, Deaver gives the story another twist... and keeps twisting. Schumann realizes that he's been set up yet again, and that the reason he was given Russian papers was not to aid his escape, but to cause Hitler to blame the Russians for the assassination.
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