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Berlin: A Novel Paperback – 13 Jul 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; New edition edition (13 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843543249
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843543244
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,154,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Startling and convincing... One of the best novels I've ever read set in this era --John Lawton, author of Black Out.

An ambitious novel, filled with brilliantly drawn characters, mesmerisingly readable and disturbingly convincing. --Sunday Telegraph

In the end it is Berlin itself, the city and its inhabitants, meticulously observed and depicted, that emerges as the true star of the story, flawed, cruel, seductively engaging and all too human. This is its best evocation since Len Deighton's Winter. --The Times

From the Inside Flap

Berlin, a city devastated by the Second World War, harbours a new and terrifying threat. The fighting may be over, but the killing goes on.

‘Pierre Frei’s Berlin is an atmospheric and ambitious novel, which vividly evokes the social degeneration of the Nazi period. On one level a traditional crime thriller, it proves in the end to be a novel of considerable depth and substance. Through the unusual technique of telling us the life story of each of a serial killer’s victims, Frei builds up a devastating picture of the corruption of Nazi rule and the impact it had on so many German families. It is a hugely absorbing, entertaining and, at times, moving read and should appeal to fans of Harris, Deighton and Le Carre, amongst others.’

Tom Bradby, author of Shadow Dancer, The Sleep of the Dead, The Master of Rain and The White Russian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
I should state right up front that I'm not a fan of serial killer stories, I don't find them particularly interesting, and had I known that the framework for this book is the hunt for a serial killer, I may well not have picked it up. The reason I did pick it up is because the setting is one that interests me. From the brilliant film "The Third Man" to Nobel laureate Heinrich Boll's "literature of the rubble", post-WWII is rich with dramatic possibilities. Here, the American occupied sector is the backdrop for a serial killer and as the ending for the stories of several women's lives. Although the framing device is the hunt for a madman, the book's real value and interest come in the intervening chapters, each of which acts as a 40-80 page novella about a German woman coming of age before the war, and what she does to survive it. In that regard, the book makes for very lively and readable social history.

Unfortunately, the structure robs the narrative of any potential suspense and makes for rather choppy reading. Contemporary chapters concerning the hunt for the serial killer alternate with each victim's lengthy backstory in a way that makes it very hard to keep track of all the various German and American characters. And since each of the victims is introduced at her death, the flashback life story that immediately follows is overlain with an oppressive sense of impending tragedy. Especially as in each case, the woman is killed on the very night her life seems to have finally turned the corner for the better.

These women include a village farmgirl turned actress, a middle-class nurse, a slum-dweller turned upscale prostitute, a horse-riding aristocrat, and a bookshop assistant, each carefully constructed to show a different aspect of German society.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have just finished this. I never contemplated failing to finish it but cannot really say that I enjoyed it.

The good things: above all the stories of the women (I am not going to spoil any plots so don't worry). One genuinely gets a sense of the tragedy of murder with the victims seen as living, complex, contradictory people. Also the sense of Berlin immediately post war. And since all the stories span the period from 1933-ish to mid 1945, once gets a real sense of the journeys that people had to make through those dreadful years.

Less good, the coincidences and the reappearance of characters, perhaps an artifice to reduce the number of characters (the 'novel' resembling a collection of short stories in many ways) but if so it didn't work for me. Especially on a Kindle, which made it hard to cross reference (at least it did for me), I kept on thinking, 'I remember that person - or did I?'. And the minor characters - even secondary characters such as the police and the lovers - were too many and too often caricatures to be credible for me. (However the central women were strongly drawn).

And the plot - well I got the murderer about half way through. And how he came to be doing what he did.

Above all, I found the sex scenes really distasteful. Not that I am a particular prude or that I don't appreciate a good one but I found these nasty, too many, repetitive, offensive, gratuitous, ridiculous. Yuck.

So a very mixed bag. On balance I don't recommend it. But I did learn from reading it. However I am now pleased to have finished and to be able to move onto to something more substantial.
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Format: Paperback
Just happened to pick this one up as I had nothing else to read on holiday and I'm so glad I did. I couldn't put the book down. I found it moving and at times quite sad as I got to know each victim and didn't want them to meet their fate. As a crime novel it's very good but as a narrative on Germany before, during and immediately after WWII it is also quite interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as did the two other people in my family who read it after me.
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I bought this on a whim and am very glad I did. The basic story is pretty good - a serial killer operating in the American Sector of Berlin just months after the end of WWII, but it is the back stories of the victims that make this something special. Each victim is given a long chapter covering their lives from several years prior to the start of WWII right up to the moment of their death, and it is these chapters that give the book its depth, showing how the war changed these victims lives in so many ways, showing the growth of National Socialism in Germany in the 30's, the increasing anti-Semitism and belief in the Aryan as the only true race for Germany. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories set in and around WWII as well as those in to murder mysteries/police stories.
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Format: Paperback
A complex and well crafted read that gave this reader an uncommon perspective on the road to and through wartime Germany, and its affect on the lives of individuals, some blameless, some not.It is also an excellent crime thriller. The foreign tone of the translation adds to the experience rather than detracting.
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This is an unusual thriller. It emphasizes the lives of the victims more than the detective work, and the denouement is almost done as an afterthought. However the descriptions of war damaged Berlin, and the lives of Berliners immediately after the war seem very accurate. That is until the author has Russian troops brandishing Kalashnikov guns, which were not invented then and only came into the Russian army in 1948. This is nit-picking, I know, but if this fact is wrong, how about the rest?
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