Updated: Jan 20
Winter in Berlin, 1939. Germany are at war, her armies have invaded Poland and a nation holds its breath, uncertain what the future holds. The author sets the scene extremely well in the opening pages. We are introduced to a bleak and colourless Berlin, carpeted by snow. Many of the people live in poverty, are reliant on food and fuel rations to keep them alive. There are blackouts every night, the people live in fear of being bombed by the British.
It is into this white world we are introduced to Inspector Horst Schenke, who is investigating forged food ration coupons. He is an ex racing driver, forced into retirement after being injured in a crash. His personality is that of a stereotypical German. He has a kind of awkward humour, and gets very embarrassed when his girlfriend - not a fan of Hitler - sees fit to air her political opinions in public. Rightly so, I suppose, it was a time of fear for those in Germany who were not members of the Nazi party.
Schenke, no lover of the far right himself, has managed to keep his own opinions neutral up until now, avoiding any conversation that leads down a political avenue. But if he is not looking for politics then it certainly comes looking for him, as he is given a case by a high ranking officer from the infamous Gestapo.
Women are being murdered at night, their bodies found along the tracks of the city's trains. One lady in particular, a former actress, wife of a prominent lawyer, has been murdered, and Schenke must find the killer.
What follows is a tale that has been expertly researched. Scarrow brings Nazi Germany to life, lays it bare, leaving none of the horror out. It's a book I found to be almost immersive, almost thrilling. It didn't quite have me gripped, though I will admit it took me a fair while to work out who the killer was.
The characters in the novel are intriguing and engaging, from Schenke and his team through to more minor characters. What really shone through for me were the numerous objections people had to the Nazi's. I think it is easy for people, particularly people of my generation, to look at WWII and say it was Germany we were fighting, when of course that was not the case.
So overall a good read, I found my feelings for it quite similar to Scarrow's last venture into this particular period, Hearts of Stone. I enjoyed that too, but again, I found it easy to put down. Maybe something about the time period for me that doesn't quite hold my attention? Both enjoyable books, none the less.
*Side note - whilst I did receive an ARC of this book, I didn't have time to read before publication and actually listened to the audio. The narration is ok, but by not giving the characters German accents (which I can understand as they are all German) I found it odd that they were given different accents in an English (even Welsh!) accent. Kind of bugged me.