Jennifer's Reviews > The Sleepwalkers

The Sleepwalkers by Paul Grossman
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's review
Sep 29, 11

bookshelves: first-reads
Read in September, 2011

I received this book as part of a first-reads giveaway.

Paul Grossman's The Sleepwalkers mixes a compelling mystery with historical fiction. The setting of the novel is in Germany during Hitler's rise to power. Some of the characters and events are based on fact, although some facts have been changed to fit the story.
Inspektor-Dectektiv Willi Kraus is called in to investigate a bizarre murder of a young woman washed up on the riverbank. Her legs are grossly misshapen, and she is dressed in a plain gray smock with her hair shaved. As Willi gets closer to the horrific truth of what happened to her, the reader is enfolded with a sense of forboding and impending catastrophe. One of the first suspects Willi investigates is a mysterious hypnotist who seems to be making women disappear. He finds out; however, that the murder he's investigating could be connected to much bigger events.
Willi is a Jew, and through his eyes we see Germany becoming a more and more dangerous place to live. Although he recognizes this enough to want his family safe, he is so focused on getting to the bottom of what is going on that he stays in the middle of this turmoil.
There is quite a bit of action in this novel, especially toward the end. I would have expected it to be more dry given the genre and there are a few places where this is so, but overall the plot and the pacing move the story along well. There is a brief romantic interest for Willi, but I would say the focus of the novel is definitely on the historical context. It is also a chilling thriller. The most chilling part is not just the original murder Willi investigates but Hitler and the SS gaining more power and Germany becoming a terrifying place for anyone not a member of the Nazi party. Willi races against time to stop more atrocities from happening, but what can one man do against such odds?
Overall I would recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction. It's definitely not light reading given the subject matter, but it held my attention well and kept me interested in the outcome of the story. Also, I thought the quality of writing was good. A decent effort for a debut novel.


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