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Rosa: A Novel
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Rosa: A Novel (Berlin Trilogy #1)

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  547 ratings  ·  68 reviews
November 1918. A socialist revolution is sweeping across Germany, wreaking havoc on war-torn Berlin. Amid the ruin of the city's slums, four women are found dead—all with identical scars on their backs. Detective Inspector Nikolai Hoffner and his assistant, Hans Fichte, are baffled by the killings, and when another body is discovered, the case takes an ominous and unexpect...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Picador (first published 2005)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,497)
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Nancy Oakes
The title refers to the socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg; indeed, the action in this book takes place just after her death in 1919.Obviously, she is not the main character, but her death is a central element in this most ingenious novel.

Nikolai Hoffner is an inspector in post-war Germany's Kriminalpolizei(Kripo), and he leads the investigation of a series of bizarrre murders in which the killer engraves patterns in his victims' backs with a knife after he kills them. One of the bodies tha...more
Milo King
A very satisfying mix of darkly atmospheric police procedural and historical fiction in the tradition of Alan Furst or John Le Carre. The novel is set in Berlin in 1919 in the aftermath of WWI and immediately following the failed attempt at Marxist revolution against Germany's new Weimar government by Karl Liebknicht,Rosa Luxemburg, and their followers. The bodies of Liebknicht and others were found brutally murdered by paramilitary thugs, but Luxemburg's body didn't turn up for five months. Rab...more
Buchdoktor
Kommissar Nikolai Hoffner von der Berliner Kriminalpolizei hat kurz nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg in einem Serienmord an Frauen zu ermitteln. Die Leichen werden auf Baustellen oder in Tunneln gefunden und tragen deutliche Zeichen, mit denen der Täter auf den Zusammenhang zwischen seinen Taten hinweisen will. Hoffner ist eine interessante, unangepasste Persönlichkeit. Seine Mutter ist Russin, die ehemals jüdische Familie konvertierte zum Christentum, um möglichst unauffällig leben zu können. In der E...more
Lewis Weinstein
A twisted fascinating plot that reveals much about Munich in the 1920s. For me, it was excellent background research for my next novel, tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER.
Malia
*2.5 stars

ROSA is one of those books that has such a dense atmosphere, you feel as though you are carrying around a heavy gray cloud while you read it. That's not to say it's a bad book. It's just rather exhausting, and in my opinion at least, about 1oo pages too long. The story really begins to drag toward the end and it is all too bleak. Having been to Berlin, I know the sun does occasionally shine there as it must have then, even in Post-war times.
Rabb is clearly extremely dedicated to prese...more
Shedrick Pittman-Hassett
Rosa is a very intriguing historical mystery set in Berlin 1919. Nikolai Hoffner, a brilliant and brilliantly-flawed Inspector with the criminal police (as opposed to the political police) becomes embroiled in a serial killer case that begins to roll out into a broader crime involving the constant shift of political power in the post-WWI Germany. The biggest strength of this book is the character of Hoffner. He is perceptive, intuitive, cynical, and dryly funny. His personal life is on the verge...more
Donna Brown
This review really applies to the whole trilogy. I had some serious reservations about particularly the last two books. But in retrospect, I would recommend reading them. My picture of Berlin before and during WWII is so clear now, and I remember the main character so vividly that I'm really glad I read he books. Also the overall tale reflects the sadness and futility of the whole era.
Peter Abresch
A mystery about the time right after WW1 when Germany is in turmoil after the Kaiser fled into exile, and the detective has to track down a killer leaving bodies around Berlin during a time of a social revolt, but also has to track down a politico using the bodies for his own end.
Joan
This book took me forever to read and I think only the inertia of February blahs prevented me from flipping to the end. However, flipping to the end would not have helped. This is a slow story. Well written. Lots of period detail, but I just never warmed to it.
Kyra
Inventive, well researched, well crafted -- I think my rating is 3.5 and that might just be about when I read it. (That's a flaw with ratings, isn't it? It might be a book I would have rated more highly at another time, in a different mood.) I can't point out flaws, but the rating is my "impression." It was a solid, competent detective novel, set in interwar Germany, laden with all the details of the politics of the period, and yet I felt I was plodding along instead of zipping through it. I thi...more
Mcrmilhist
Really enjoyed this. A good detective story and great historical fiction in a rarely written about period.

I felt it captured the mood of 1919 Berlin very well, especially the political atmosphere.
Maureen Mitchell
Brilliant atmospheric book about Berlin in 1919.
Ian
Nikolai Hoffner is a Kripo (criminal police) Detective Inspector in 1919 Berlin. This was a time of utter confusion and shifting political tides as revolution in post WW1 Germany became a real possibility. Forces on the left and right struggled to gain power against the backdrop of the downfall and exile of the previously autonomous Kaiser and the successful Russian revolution of 1917.

Amidst this chaos, Hoffner is trying to catch a serial killer with a distinct signature but his work is hampere...more
Joe
Rosa is the first book in an historical mystery trilogy featuring Berlin Police Detective Nikolai Hoffner. The book takes place in early 1919 and Germany is beginning its downward spiral after the Armistice of World War I. Our hero, driven and somewhat aloof from both his family and law enforcement peers, is on the trail of a serial killer whose female victims are seemingly chosen at random, while the crimes follow a pattern - both in the placement of the victims' bodies around the environs of B...more
Heidi
“Rosa” puts me in the peculiar position of giving 4 stars to a book I didn't really enjoy reading (or rather listening to on CD–had I actually had to pick it up every night, I probably could not have brought myself to do so.) Jonathan Rabb is a clunky prose stylist, and he can't resist telling you what a character is feeling precisely before that character speaks and REVEALS what he's thinking: in other words, Rabb tells and then shows, which makes for a much longer and more enervating book than...more
Jeanne
At the end of WWI, Berlin Police Inspector Nikolai Hoffner, is trying to solve a serial murder case when the body of Rosa Luxembourg, a Socialist revolutionary, turns up murdered in the same way. Was Rosa another victim of the serial killer or is there some other reason for her murder? Hoffner digs into her existence while receiving threats from the Political Police that his investigation isn't welcome. The novel succeeds on many levels; the 1919 Berlin atmosphere comes through and the layers of...more
Marty
A first-rate historical thriller, on a par with Phillip Kerr, Martin Cruz Smith, and even the great Alan Furst. With Rosa, in fact, Jonathan Rabb shows himself to be, in my view at any rate, more politically sophisticated than all of his peers, with the possible exception of Kerr. He paints a dark and foreboding portrait of Berlin just after the first World War and the violent suppression of the ill-starred Spartacist uprising. It is a world of semi-secret right wing paramilitary organizations,...more
Sara Miller
Finally got around to picking this (and Second Son) up. I enjoyed this immensely, much more than Shadow and Light, but I do plan to go back and re-read S&L as I'm more in tune with Rabb's writing and the overall arc of the Berlin trilogy. Parts of this didn't appeal to me - I'm not so much a noir fan, and the grittiness turned me off - but that's a case of personal preference as opposed to any fault of the author.

Rabb loads the piece (as he did with Shadow and LIght) down with historical ex...more
Tomi
This book was confusing; I had a hard time keeping people and groups straight. (And I do know Rosa's story and how the Nazi movement began.) there was too much introspection/philosophy and not enough mystery. And why throw in sex? Totally unimportant and unrelated to the story! The actual mystery about Rosa's possible murderers was plausible and interesting, but that wasn't the focus of the story.
Joan Cobb
This fast paced, intriguing, historical murder mystery is based on the true person of socialist/communist Rosa Luxemburg whose demise has never been resolved in the chaotic events of Berlin following the end of World War I. The author has taken this event and created his story of what might have happened. Between the serial murders, the political situation and an interesting police detective, this novel is fascinating. I can only assume that his analysis of rapidly unfolding situation in Germany...more
Albert Lusnia
Overall disappointing. It was good enough to keep me reading to the end, but not enough to make me want more. The detective story was adequate if veering toward the absurd at the end; but I never felt that the "historical" dimension of the story was believable. The action takes place in Berlin after the 11/11/18 armistice but before the Treaty of Versailles: Germany just lost a long and costly war, changed its form of government, had just rebuffed a communist revolt and was still under a militar...more
Michele Weiner
A fictional yarn about life in Berlin at the beginning of the end of peace. It features a serial killer, vast political corruption, a master detective, a secret society pulling the strings, and Rosa Luxemburg. Rosa was a real figure in history, a Jewish socialist agitator in Germany between the wars, fighting for all the workers to unite against those who would have them fight each other in war after war. She was found floating in a canal in Berlin and became a hero of the resistance. This myste...more
Ellen Keim
I really enjoyed getting some history along with a murder mystery. Even though I majored in Modern German History in college, I didn't really know all that much about the years right after WWI. Although the main character was a bit of a cliche--a savvy but disillusioned police detective--his moral crisis was handled very well and quite realistically. There was a lot to savor in this novel. I wasn't sure if I would buy the alternative to history (actually, a possible explanation for why Rosa Luxe...more
Andrula
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beverly
I found this novel hard to read: the style was dense and the ins and outs of Weimar politics was over my head. But still I loved it for its loving and unsentimental rendition of Berlin, the European city I love above all others. It was also a good police procedural centering on an interesting police detective - the type that is underestimated by higher ups. All of the characters were well drawn, and despite the difficulties, I now know a lot more about Rosa Luxemburg and the Germany that was pre...more
Rachel
I don't usually hate books. But I think I hate this one. It took me forever to read because everytime I turned on the Kindle I fell asleep. Also, the story was boring and the ending was unexciting for what is supposed to be a thriller. The writing was ok. And the protaganist is relatable. For this reason I wavered between 1 and 2 stars. But I had to go with 1 because I kept falling asleep. As stubborn as I am I was able to read this book to completion, but I've got to think that many people just...more
Tom
Ross Luxemburg #1
John
A good book that held my interest, set in a very interesting time. The author could have done a bit more research, however -- he refers to the Wehrmacht, which did not come into existence until 1935 (the story is set in 1919), and talks about the "Defense Ministry", when in fact all defense ministries at the time were called "War Ministries". These nitpickings notwithstanding, Rabb paints a colorful picture of the modern world before telephones and automobiles became ubiquitous. A good, atmosphe...more
Naomi
A mystery of serial murders set at the end of the first World War, the revolution in Germany that ushers in the Weimar Republic and ends imperial government, and the early days of what will become the Nazis are woven together by Rabb for a compelling read.

Book clubs that read texts focused on various forms of needle work take note: lace making is important to this story (how, I won't say). This is far from the cozy mystery genre, though, moving between police procedural and historical mystery.
Jonathan
In this combination police procedural/historical novel, Rabb does a fine job of holding the readers' interest, drawing compelling characters, and evoking Berlin in the period immediately following World War I. The plotting, which starts out quite strongly, becomes a bit strained by the end. I thought that problem could have been solved with a strong edit, aimed at making the book a bit shorter and tighter.

This novel is the first of a trilogy and I look forward to continuing the series.
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A German Cop in Belgium 1 1 Feb 17, 2014 11:45AM  
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Jonathan Rabb grew up knowing he would be an academic. The son and grandson (on both sides) of historians, Rabb’s world shook at its very core when he opted to try his hand at political theory. As an undergraduate at Yale, Rabb divided his time among Locke and Hobbes and Hegel while spending his more reckless hours singing with the Whiffenpoofs and galloping across stage in such roles as Harry the...more
More about Jonathan Rabb...
Shadow and Light (Berlin Trilogy, #2) The Book of Q: A Novel The Overseer The Second Son (Berlin Trilogy, #3) The Strand Magazine June-Sept. 2013

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