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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review: The Sleepwalkers by Paul Grossman

Title: Paul Grossman
Author: The Sleepwalkers

Series: ---
St. Martin's Press 
Publication Date: 
October 12, 2010 
How Received: 

Reviewer: Ethan

Summary: Berlin, 1932.  In the final weeks of the Weimar Republic, as Hitler and his National Socialist party angle to assume control of Germany, beautiful girls are seen sleepwalking through the streets.  Then, a young woman of mysterious origin, with her legs bizarrely deformed, is pulled dead from the Havel River.  Willi Kraus, a high ranking detective in Berlin's police force, begins a murder investigation. A decorated World War I hero and the nation's most famous detective, Willi also is a Jew.   Despite his elite status in the criminal police, he is disturbed by the direction Germany is taking.  Working urgently to identify the dead woman and solve the murder, Willi finds his superiors diverting him at every turn, and is forced to waste precious time on a politically-sensitive missing person case.  Colleagues seem to avoid him; a man on a streetcar stops him from reading a newspaper over his shoulder; he is uncomfortably aware of being watched.  But he persists, and soon enters the dangerous Berlin underworld of debauched nightclubs, prostitutes with secrets to hide, and a hypnotist with troubling connections. As he moves through darkness closer to the truth, Willi begins to understand that much more than the solution to a murder is at stake. What he discovers will mean that his life, the lives of his friends and family, and Germany itself will never be the same. The Sleepwalkers is a powerful, dramatic debut thriller of a nation's unstoppable corruption, featuring a good man trapped between his duty to serve and his grave doubts about what, and who, he serves.  

Review: I have a soft spot for anything that has to do with World War II. Ever since first learning about the events that took place during that time, particularly the horrific genocide in Germany, I have been fascinated by the history. It seemed only natural, therefore, that I should read Paul Grossman's debut novel, The Sleepwalkers.

As a Hitler led Nazi party threatens to take control of the German government, Berlin detective Willi Kraus finds himself at the center of a strange murder investigation. A mysterious young woman if found, dead in a Berlin river, head shaved and legs seemingly turned in the wrong direction. As Willi, a Jew, begins to investigate the death of this savagely deformed young women, he begins to face a strange lack of support from his superiors. With little help from his agency, his stress only increased as he is called to investigate the disappearance of Bulgarian princess. As he looks into both cases, he discovers a connection between the two, and finds that a large amount of women have disappeared, under similar circumstances, over the past year. As Willi digs deeper and deeper into these events, he begins to uncover the prelude of what the Nazi party was preparing to do and must try to save his family, himself, and his country before it is too late.

In his debut novel, Grossman masterfully weaves historical fact with his engaging world of fiction to make a heart pounding thriller, and to bring a new perspective to the WWII genre. The detective, Willi, as well as the supporting cast of characters all contain qualities that make me invest heavily in their endeavors. It seems that, because I was familiar with what was going to happen historically, I couldn't stop reading to see how these characters lives interacted with the history. This novel was the perfect companion for a rainy afternoon, and appealed greatly to my love of history and mysteries.

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