Out of the ashes

I thoroughly enjoyed Pierre Frei's stylish post-war thriller Berlin. Set just after the Second World War, a serial killer is on the loose in the American sector of Berlin, and an American officer and a German policeman are forced to work together to hunt down the killer.

This is a cleverly constructed thriller. There is the main post-war murder mystery, but each of the victims is also examined in depth looking at their lives in pre and wartime Berlin. It was refreshing to see the victims made the highlight of the mystery, too often they're relegated to the sidelines and are just the force that drives the plot rather than being important in themselves. Here they take centre-stage. Occasionally it doesn't quite work, usually when Pierre Frei becomes too obsessed with using his characters as a vehicle to demonstrate something else. Marlene's story is the weakest but with a heroine forced to carry both a French Resistance storyline, and as the horrified wife of a concentration camp commandant, it's hardly surprising it doesn't work.

Another area in which Pierre Frei scores highly is in the background to the tale. Frei grew up in wartime Berlin, and the city is lovingly portrayed. All in all it's an excellent tale. Eminently readable, beautifully constructed, well worth reading.


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