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“Jonathan Rabb, Rosa - In the Berlin area in 1918, four...”


written by Harriet Klausner on 18/02/2005

Jonathan Rabb, Rosa - In the Berlin area in 1918, four homicides of middle-aged women with a signature design etched onto their backs have the criminal police baffled by what appears to be a German Ripper. Heading the investigation, Detective Inspector Nikolai Hoffner sees the pattern, but as he tells his trainee Hans Fichte, they have plenty of clues that go nowhere. In other words, they have made no progress as the new year begins.

In mid-January, a fifth victim is found in a subway station. At the morgue, Nikolai is shown the sixth woman, Rosa Luxemburg, the "Devil Jewess" Socialist Democrat who was involved in the recent failed revolution. However, Nikolai quickly sees the signature on Rosa's back differs slightly from the five other dead women. Before he can delve deeper into his theory that the serial killer is being used to cover the Rosa murder by someone else, the political police arrive to take over at least that element of the case. In spite of friends, family, and colleagues telling him to back away, Nikolai makes inquiries into his two cases, but especially Rosa who takes over his life.

ROSA is an intriguing, historical, police procedural that at times does get bogged down in Nikolai's Laura-like obsession, but that also provides the motive for him to continue seeking the truth. The most interesting character is Rosa, a real person, whose attitudes, life and death provide a pre-Nazi look at the roots of anti-Semitism; this gives the fine police story a stronger historical perspective than most sub-genre novels contains. Readers will appreciate this deep look at post-World War I Berlin mostly from the eyes of a caring, honest cop.

Harriet Klausner

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