Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Review: The Sleepwalkers by Paul Grossman, reviewed by C.w. Grotner

As a member of GoodReads, I read lots of reviews (which is why my wish list gets longer every day). Obviously, many are very good or my wish list would be shorter. A couple of days ago I read one posted by C. w. Gortner that blew me away. I complemented him on the posting and indicated my desire to put it up here (not expecting a reply, any less a positive reply). Yesterday I got a very positive response enabling me to share this with you! (O, fyi, he is an author I follow at GoodReads because I enjoy his story telling.)

Thank you C. W.!

The Sleepwalkers
by Paul Grossman

C.w. Gortner's review Sep 13, 11

Read in September, 2011

One of my favorite periods in 20th century history is pre-Nazi Berlin; a fragile time before the rise of an era of unspeakable darkness, when the city was a fabled cosmopolitan smorgasbord full of vibrancy- an international magnet for artists, bohemians, eccentrics, and the curious. The Berlin we know today is very different from the Berlin of before World War II and Paul Grossman’s THE SLEEPWALKERS offers us a superb evocation of that city’s pathos and tragic hedonism in the weeks leading up to Hitler’s ascendancy, even as a resolute Jewish detective hunts for a killer.

As the title suggests, this is more than a novel about a series of bizarre murders that Grossman’s hero, Detective Willi Krauss, is trying to solve. All of Berlin appears to be sleep-walking, seemingly oblivious to the endemic violence lurking under the surface, epitomized by Nazi thugs and opportunistic politicians scheming to rescue Germany from decades of penury and shame. Krauss, however, senses these fearsome undercurrents, even as he is swept up in a labyrinthine quest to discover why a young woman pulled from the river was subjected to horrific medical experiments. Revered for his recent capture of an infamous serial killer yet haunted by personal loss, Krauss is now beginning to experience a subtle but pervasive fraying of his impermeability. His keen observations of the shifting world around him anchor the novel’s dark, fascinating trajectory into both the high-ranking offices of a crumbling government and Berlin's seamy underworld.

The supporting cast of characters includes an enigmatic prostitute, an extravagant hypnotist, an earnest cadet, a jaded aristocrat, and a street hustler. While some of the characters conform to established clich├ęs, Grossman handles them with sensitivity and style, while his villains— including a terrifying, buck-toothed Josef Mengele—display the sociopathic tendencies which became a Nazi blueprint and are all the more unsettling because they are not fictional. Fast-paced action sequences interspersed with Krauss’s uneasy awareness that the life he’s always believed in is turning to quicksand under his feet give the novel a brooding, unstoppable feel that kept me reading far into the night. Though Krauss fights with every part of his being to halt the shadow sweeping over him, and everyone he loves, we know the inevitable outcome; it is a testament to Mr. Grossman's talent that despite this, we still find ourselves rooting for his idealistic, damaged hero, caught up in circumstances far beyond his control, like so many thousands of Germany's inhabitants.

It's me again! This book is available in all formats and lots of places! And no, I am not getting compensated by any one! Ok, maybe by me.