A novel about Nazi Berlin by Harald Gilbers

Harald Gilbers, trans. from German by Alexandra Rosech. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-24693-6

What would it be like for a Jewish detective to work for the Nazis on a serial killer case? It’s the intriguing premise of Gilbers’ stellar debut, which won the Glauser Award for Best German Mystery Novel. Before Jews were banned from working for the police, Richard Oppenheimer was one of Berlin’s top criminal investigators. Late one night in May 1944, SS Hauptsturmführer Vogler summons Oppenheimer to a crime scene. Arranged in front of a World War I memorial is the body of a young woman with nails driven into her ears; his pelvic area is a “single massive wound”. Vogler reveals that two other women had been similarly slaughtered in the previous nine months, and in desperation the SS turned to Oppenheimer, who had previously apprehended another serial killer who mutilated women. Despite his new role, Oppenheimer is still in danger in a city filled with anti-Semites. When evidence shows that one of the victims was linked to Lebensborn, Himmler’s program to produce children with the purest possible blood, the investigation becomes even trickier. Gilbers makes Oppenheimer’s fears and the moral compromises he makes palpable. Philip Kerr fans will want to check this out. Agent: Kerstin Schuster, Droemer Knaur (Germany). (Dec.)

Alycia R. Lindley