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3.66  ·  Rating details ·  379 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Set in a devastated Berlin one month after the close of the Second World War, Berlin has been acclaimed as “ambitious . . . filled with brilliantly drawn characters, mesmerizingly readable, and disturbingly convincing” by the Sunday Telegraph. An electrifying thriller in the tradition of Joseph Kanon and Alan Furst, Berlin is a page-turner and an intimate portrait of ...more
Paperback, 425 pages
Published July 27th 2007 by Grove Press (first published June 2003)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  379 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Michael Conland
Nov 11, 2014 rated it liked it
I quite enjoyed this, but maybe as a bit of a guilty pleasure in the end.

The real shining positive point of this novel is the back stories for each of the murder victims. They tend to go into some details covering their adolescence, through to adulthood, which encompasses the rise of the nationalists, the war and then the direct aftermath. In some regard, this novel is really just a collection of short stories about women of various social standing, living in pre and post war Prussia. The
I am conflicted about this novel to be perfectly honest. Frei's depiction of life and experience in the days immediately after the end of the war between the Allies and Germany has the serious weight of authenticity and lived history. There's marvelous period detail, a powerful, evocative atmosphere of despair, shame, guilt, uncertainty, hunger, deprivation and post-traumatic stress on a national scale.

Unlike many serial killer stories the focus is more on the murderer's victims and their
Stephen Hayes
This is a whodunit with a difference. Well, with several differences. It's about a serial killer, and quite a lot of crime novels are about that.

The most notable difference is that it pays as much attention to the victims as it does to the killers or the cops.

In many crime novels the victims are simply dead bodies, and the police investigating the crime have to identify them to find out who they were, and very often the reader knows little more about them than the police. In this case, however
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: war, crime, a-kindle
Although this was a 99p kindle deal and I'm always a bit wary of bargains...caveat emptor etc, the fact that the Sunday Telegraph review said that it was "filled with brilliantly drawn characters, mesmerizingly readable, and disturbingly convincing” sold it to me. Sadly it was none of those three things and I suspect it was just trying too hard to be too many things. At its heart, it attempted to be a noir detective mystery with a serial killer stalking immediate post war West Berlin, killing a ...more
Elke Woll
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
Note to self: BE MORE CAREFUL! I made the mistake of not realising I was buying a translation.

More than once I had the impression that when the translator didn't know a word, she just picked the top suggestion at Awful! "Gauntlet" for a simple bike glove? "Diadem" for a tiara? "Medicament" for a drug or medicine? My worst (and that was used more than once) is: "she carried a tray of vanilla ices on sticks". Please!*

What makes translation bungling like this so bad is that one loses
Robert Ronsson
The best thing I can say about this is that its plotting kept me reading to the end. It's about a serial killer operating in Berlin immediately after its 'liberation' by the Russians at the end of WW2. There are five murders and, after each death, Pierre Frei describes the life of each blonde, female victim. This gives him the opportunity to take the reader on a didactic journey through the Berlin civilians' wartime experiences and the privations they, particularly young females, had to endure ...more
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
I thought the book had a lot of very interesting parts about what it was like after the war in Berlin. I especially enjoyed reading from a German point of view. The author set the scene very well in terms of the rationing, lack of basic necessities, overcrowding and lack of housing, and difficulty adjusting to life surrounded by Americans and Russians. If this were written as a series of short stories it would have been more successful. Unfortunately it was meant to be a murder mystery without ...more
Jul 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was interesting reading this book in parallel with “Every Man Dies Alone”, Hans Fallada’s story of wartime Berlin. Don’t ask why I was reading them in parallel! But there were many hooks between the two books. “Every Man” was written just after the war, in Berlin. This one was written about the immediate post war period, in Berlin. One of the characters in the book, a bookseller / librarian, even mentions reading the current Hans Fallada book in 1944. They both briefly explore the ...more
Jill Meyer
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love a great detective story, and this is one. But what separates this story from most novels is the emphasis Frei places on the CRIME VICTIMS.

Four or five blonde women are found murdered in post-war Berlin. A spree-killer is on the loose. The novel centers on the German policeman (and his family) and an American policeman, stationed in the occupied city, who team up to find the killer. But, not neglected are the women who were murdered. All were "fleshed out". All the women had played a role,
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Compelling and embarrassing in equal measure. Really enjoyed the back stories of all the murder victims, great insight into life in wartime Berlin. Found the serial killer plot itself unnecessarily violent and unpleasant and in fact the book would have been none the worse without it. The revelation of the killer's identity was a real anticlimax after a couple of very obvious red herrings and the over-frequent sex scenes (did Berlin ladies really just shag at the drop of a hat?) were laughable at ...more
Jan 10, 2009 rated it liked it
This one needs 3 1/2 stars. It is a mundane serial killer mystery about a killer who targets blonde, blue-eyed German girls. What makes it rather compelling is that it is set in Berlin in the immediate aftermath of WW II when the city is occupied. And it is made more compelling by the device of devoting a long chapter to the life story of each murder victim, so you get an idea of what the war years were like for Berliners. The writing style is stiff, but that may be because it is translated from ...more
May 21, 2008 rated it liked it
The book was fascinating for its description of Berlin right after WWII ended, as well as for several stories of women's lives before and during WWII. I am fascinated by Berlin and its recent history, so I really enjoyed this element of the book. However, the primary overall plot of the story is a murder mystery, and I found the resolution of the "whodunit" completely unsatisfactory--hence, the three stars.
Gaby Laun
Long time ago, but I liked it. A good combination of a thrill, historic lesson to learn.
Arnold Geisler
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jim Bogue
This is an interesting book, set in post war Berlin in 1945. The author has done a lot of research, and the atmosphere feels authentic.
However, tho it was interesting enough to finish, there were three problems with Berlin. Most important, I did not like how it was organized. The mystery is a set of serial killings, and after each killing we get a review of the victim’s life. There are subplots about the investigators and about a teenager trying to be a rebel. So the book continually stops,
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Composed of a number of vignettes of the victims, "Berlin" tells the story or a serial killer at loose in th3e American sector of post war Berlin. It is unusual in that the victims become real people for the reader before there lives are cut off. Powerfully written and containing a wealth of detail. A great story.
Tim Ganotis
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a great story. Flashbacks to the lives of murder victims before their demise. Really gives a sense of pre-war, wartime, and post-war Berlin. Possibly too much focus on sex, which just detracts from the story at times, feeling shoehorned in.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Armijo
Jun 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
This one kept me going page by page. It was like going back in time to pre and post WWII. There was a suspicious and mysterious serial killer. A detective was investigating and there are chapters on the victims (and their MOST INTERESTING lives): HELGA, HENRIETTE, MARLENE and JUTTA.

There weren't a lot of profound lines that were life changing. However, there were some funny lines intertwined and some erotic ones as well.

The harrowing times wartime Berlin were not pretty and very anti-semetic.
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this so much more than I actually did. A mystery set in post WWII Berlin but somehow it just didn't come together for me.

Things I liked: the setting and descriptions of life in those months just after the war ended. The shortages and lines and difficulties finding work and housing and enough to eat. The police inspector and his family. The way the stories of each victim was told - their tories before, during and after the war, how they ended up where they were at the war's end.
Mar 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quit-while-ahead
The book starts with the discovery of a woman's body, & we meet the investigator, who is supposedly the protagonist, & a few members of his family, & some scene-setting on postwar Berlin. Then we're introduced to the killer's next victim, who has a lucky escape... And then suddenly we're treated to the first victim's life story. And I do mean life story - we go back to when she was a girl & follow her from there.

It's not even as if this does anything to connect the reader to her
Jan 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Another book in about "regular" crime in Berlin, set against a backdrop of post-war occupation. This book is translated and it is hard to tell if it is the translation that reads awkwardly or just that the original text isn't that well written. The ideas are interesting though, and the author does a fairly good job of portraying how difficult it is for regular Germans to get on with their lives during the Occupation - especially those who are trying to return to investigating "regular" crimes. ...more
Frank McAdam
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-suspense
This is ostensibly a murder mystery set in post-war Berlin and has both the German police and the American military police searching for the serial killer of beautiful young blonde women. The author tries to do something different and intersperses the chapters dealing with the hunt for the killer with the life stories of his victims. Some of these are extremely lengthy. While this device admittedly gives the reader a better idea what life was like in the Third Reich and creates more sympathy for ...more
Sari Biklen
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book gripped me from a few pages in. It is cleverly structured around the lives of German women before and during the second world war, and around the lives of a German police detective and his family, mostly his adolescent son, and an American military policeman. It's hard to tell much about the book without giving it away, but the complicated picture it presents of American behavior as war victors, the range of German reactions to the war and to their daily life, combined with a coming of ...more
Jul 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-thriller
A strange mixture of a book - on the one hand it is a hunt for a serial killer in Berlin just after the end of WW2, but each killing allows the author to tell us the story of the victim, before moving on with the hunt. These digressions are fairly lengthy, but always readable. It is only when I came to write this review that I became aware that the translator is the wonderful Anthea Bell [of Asterix fame] and I am sure she contributes to the readability. The stories are all sad, but one in ...more
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Berlin tells the story of a serial killer in the post WWII American occupied zone of Onkel Toms Hutte in Berlin. The murder mystery convention is mediocre, but the heart of the novel is the back stories of the four women he links together using the mystery. The novel's first couple of chapters are a bit slow, but picks up with the women's stories. Frei does a good job of weaving minor characters in and out of the women's stories and shows the horrors of the Nazi rise, war, and post war ...more
Feb 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
As a murder mystery this is fairly average; what sets it apart is the depiction of life in Germany both pre and post World War Two. By turns funny, tragic and just plain horrifying, the attention to detail and the portrayal of ordinary people coping as best they can in a world changed beyond all recognition is shockingly real. This is not a light-hearted read but it is genuinely interesting and eye-opening.
John Treanor
Jan 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Uses a serial killer story to draw out the lives of the women who were his victims. The victim's stories connect around the Uncle Tom's Cabin part of Berlin, before, during and after WWII. The victims' stories were interesting, but the serial killer and his story seems to have been given short shrift. Worth a read, for the great descriptions of Berlin and lives of the women and the crippled detective, but didn't hold together for me in a satisfying way.
Angela Marinari
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a fabulous portrayal of womens' experiences in Berlin at the end of WWII, wrapped in the accessible format of a traditional crime thriller. I normally avoid stories featuring men investigating men who kill women, finding them salacious and rather predictable, but the reflections on violence against women and war crimes in this story saves it from the usual trappings of the genre. Powerful, thought provoking, truly deserving of a five star rating.
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