This book is a wonderful, interesting and fun ride into seedy 1929 Berlin, telling a fast-paced detective noir tale that ties into the dark underbelly of the city and the fascinatingly complex political landscape of the time. I really enjoyed reading this, it is a brick of a book but I tore through it very quickly.
Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher – BLURB
Berlin, 1929. Detective Inspector Rath, was a successful career officer in the Cologne Homicide Division before a shooting incident in which he inadvertently killed a man. He has been transferred to the Vice Squad in Berlin, a job he detests, even though he finds a new friend in his boss, Chief Inspector Wolter. There is seething unrest in the city and the Commissioner of Police has ordered the Vice Squad to ruthlessly enforce the ban on May Day demonstrations. The result is catastrophic with many dead and injured, and a state of emergency is declared in the Communist strongholds of the city.
When a car is hauled out of Berlin’s Landwehr Canal with a mutilated corpse inside the Commissioner decides to use this mystery to divert the attention of press and public from the casualties of the demonstrations. The biggest problem is that the corpse cannot be identified.
BOOK REVIEW: Babylon Berlin
So this big detective novel has been translated from German into English. And yes… I am OBSESSED with the big budget Netflix series called #babylonberlin set in the late 1920s in Berlin, so I was very excited to read this! I am also one of those annoying people who loves to pinpoint how the plot and characters differ from the tv adaption, but in truth, I love both versions! I do feel like they are both very different though, but not in bad ways, more in interesting ones.
The book though, is the very cool beginning novel to a noir detective series, exploring the complicated backdrop of Berlin in the 20s and 30s, and especially the seedy underbelly of the city and warring political movements… and a few murders! Fascinating stuff! 😻
The main character, Rath, in the book is a bit an ambitious fellow and a rule breaker, and I really enjoyed his sarcastic inner commentary as he got himself into and out of various scrapes throughout this story. Though I did love his character in the book, I have to say that the show does such a good job of creating a deeper level to the main characters, namely Rath and Lotte (Charly in the novel, who has very little to do in the book but is a major player in the show). Rath himself in the show is a WWI vet, who if I am honest, is completely fucked because of those traumatic experiences, he has PTSD, in a time when that is considered to be a form of cowardice, and he is self medicating in order to survive. There is also a real sweetness to his character in the show that I really love. In the book he feels a lot more spiky, he is younger, and cares a lot more about his reputation, his career and his future … which I quite liked as well! It was actually reading a detective noir in which the main character wasn’t falling apart at the seams (or at least not at the beginning).
Anyway, haha, that was a lot of waffle of me comparing the two versions of the story, which is neither here nor there, but all in all, the book is an excellent read. I tore through it and had a lot of fun. I adore historical fiction mysteries and this one hit the sweet spot. 🙂