Monday, May 11, 2015
Review of Rosa by Jonathan Rabb (Halban, 2005)
The first instalment in Rabb’s Berlin trilogy featuring Kripo detective, Nikolai Hoffner, Rosa has a lot going for it -- a complex and compelling lead character, a strong sense of place and time, a noir atmosphere, evocative prose, and an engaging plot. Hoffner is a gruff, tough and savvy detective who doesn’t mind stepping on toes and whose moral compass is not always well set. Rabb surrounds him with a set of well penned characters, including his somewhat naive assistant, Hans Fichte, the child office runners in Kripo, his long suffering wife and children, the sinister members of Polpo, the political police, and the ghostly presence of Rosa Luxemburg. He places all of these in the dark, uncertain and claustrophobic landscape of Berlin, with its inequalities, poverty and shortages of food and goods, and its political tensions, street battles and unstable state. The plot mixes together an investigation into the work of a serial killer and a high-level political conspiracy, creating a strong hook that drives the narrative along. However, while the plot is compelling, it is also rather fanciful which after a while starts to undermine the credibility of tale. Nonetheless, the tension and intrigue holds the story together until the end. Overall, a strong start to the trilogy.