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Straight into Darkness Hardcover – August 22, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Kellerman, perhaps best known for her Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus novels, takes a hiatus from things contemporary in this ambitious historical mystery, in which politics, prejudice, and revenge form the backdrop for murder. The time is 1929, the place is Munich, and Hitler and his thugs and sycophants are gathering momentum for the horrors to come. Kommunisten, Social Democrats, gays, and, especially, Jews are the targets of Brown Shirts, who are increasing in number and viciousness. Even Munich's Homicide Unit has its Nazi sympathizers. Inspektor Axel Berg, however, isn't one of them. He hopes to steer clear of politics, especially on the job. But when the murders of three women and a young child spawn rumors of a serial killer, the pressure to find a scapegoat (the Jewish husband of one of the victims will do as a start) intensifies, and Berg finds himself fighting not only for fairness for the accused but also for his own career. This is a complicated novel, and its mystery occasionally flounders under the weighty political backdrop. But suspense gradually mounts, and the ironic ending is worth the wait. As for Berg, he is one of Kellerman's richest creations--an intriguing protagonist, flawed yet compassionate and heroic, forced to confront enormous odds in brutal times. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"No one working in the crime genre is better." --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (August 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446530409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446530408
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,267,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
First, if you're expecting the typical relatively soft mystery plot of Faye's regulars, Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker, they're not here!! This unusual novel features a troubling string of serial killings set in Munich Germany during the historical period in between the world wars (1920's). In addition to the unrest created by the murders, the political scene is one of total upheaval as Hitler's rise to power is well underway. Already Jews, homosexuals, Communists, and just about any other non-Aryan groups are under attack - both in word and deed. Moreover, political influence and corruption run amok at high levels of the police force and government. Despite all this, the protagonist, homicide inspector Axel Berg, uses all his mental prowess and persistence to close in on the killer; and at book's end, not only is the perpetrator totally unexpected, but so is Axel's outcome given his brilliant solution of the crimes.

While Kellerman is known for illuminating the orthodox practices of Judaism in her stories, this one focuses more on the grossly anti-Semitic climate of that period, obviously a precursor to the eventual holocaust of the ensuing decade. Details about the city and the events of that era reveal quite extensive research and travels, reflected early on in the author's acknowledgments. Our take was that while the story was darker than usual for this writer, the inherit suspense kept us reading rapidly, seeking the culmination of events and "whodunit". So while "Darkness" is indeed quite a departure from the norm for our likable author, we feel sure Kellerman fans will enjoy this outing, and that this her new novel will enjoy considerable success!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Faye Kellerman has written some pretty decent mystery novels with her series about Peter and Rina Decker. Both characters are Orthodox Jews (as, I believe, is Kellerman) and the stories often deal with the conflicts between leading a good religious life and at the same time being able to cope with the demands of being involved with police work. With Straight Into Darkness, Kellerman takes a break from the Deckers to tell a tale of a dark period in both Jewish and world history, the rise of Hitler.

The novel follows Axel Berg, a homicide detective in 1929 Munich. It is a time and place where Hitler is not yet officially in power, but he is definitely a figure of note with a popular following through intimidation and hate speech. Berg loathes Hitler, but is more concerned with the death of Anna Gross. Her murder does not appear to be the standard act-of-passion sort, but instead something graver. Berg is pressured into getting immediate results, and Anna's Jewish husband Anton winds up being the scapegoat.

The killings continue and the Nazis (including Hitler himself) use the incidents to their own advantage, creating greater anti-Semitism and promoting violent riots. Berg has his leads, but in a pre-computer era, following up on these clues is slow and difficult. Furthermore, his boss Volker is pushing him to arrest someone, even another innocent like Anton.

As a mystery, this story is okay, but nothing special. What pushes this up from three to four star quality is the characterization and atmosphere. I won't say the characters are perfectly defined, but they are more complex than what Kellerman typically offers. Peter Decker may have his faults, but he is clearly a hero; Axel Berg is more complex and less heroic.
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Format: Hardcover
"Straight Into Darkness" is a terrific example of how fiction can sometimes be our best teacher of history.

Over the past 30 years or so, I've studied the rise of German fascism from many different perspectives, reading almost everything available on the topic. There are hundreds of excellent non-fiction accounts of this terrifying era, including such classics as "The Nazi Seizure of Power," "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," and "The Hidden Hitler." Taken collectively, they explain how virulent racism, nationalism, economic insecurity and political upheaval combined to launch the NSDAP during the 1920s. Hitler, an evil genius at public speaking, was riding a wave that he did not actually create.

Faye Kellerman's new novel gives us a snapshot of that period by focusing on Munich in 1929. Her main character, Axel Berg, is a cynical police detective on the murder beat. When someone starts strangling and clubbing women to death, the case becomes a rallying point for Hitler and his brownshirt minions. From Berg's perspective, we can see how the Nazis used the media to whip up even greater fear among the populace -- so much fear that they would ultimately welcome a brutal clampdown on the so-called "degenerates" of Bavaria. Not just Jews, but also modern artists, thespians, musicians, democrats, gypsies, homosexuals, Russians and dozens of other "outsider" groups.

What's so remarkable about this novel is Kellerman's rigid refusal to turn her characters into black-and-white cutouts. She won't oversimplify human nature to make a political point. All of her main characters exhibit both good and evil, courage and selfishness, in a way that illustrates what was really happening on the ground level in 1929. It's a real triumph of mature storytelling.
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