Berlin, 1945. The war has ended but a new conflict is about to rise as occupied Germany is partaken by the victorious America and Soviet Union. A serial killer with a preference for blond haired and blue-eyed frauleins is on the loose and as the German police, headed by Inspector Dietrich, struggled to identify the killer they also have to contend with uncooperative Americans and the difficult Russians.
Berlin is not your usual whodunit story though. Neither is it your regular retelling of the horrors of World War II. Pierre Frei’s narrative weaves history with crime and drama with fine rhetoric. He takes us through the lives of each victim—their homes, hopes and struggle while at the same time capturing the drama and tension of the war conceived by Hitler. The man himself is just a shadow in the story but the malevolence of his vision is palpable and it’s horror still jarring as witnessed by the different women in the story: an actress who was tricked to give testimony that sent her friend to death; a nurse who, by following where her handicapped son is sent, discovered a secret facility called Racial Hygiene Research which mission is to eliminate the misfits in the glorious picture of Aryan supremacy; a prostitute who was wife to a Gestapo officer and had found the courage to escape her life after witnessing the horrors in a concentration camp; an aristocrat whose family had been loyal to the Reich until his brother, disillusioned, committed the highest treason; and finally a bookseller who survived the war only to be sexually ravaged by the liberators.
Compelling and authentic. And fresh. Taken from the point of view of another set of victims, the German women. Their will to survive the chaos for which they are unwittingly thrown offered us a new perspective on human frailty and spiritual triumph. Until the five women met their killer. And here, Inspector Dietrich, anxious to give the victims the justice due them, had to remind everyone: “I know the war’s over and murder’s a crime again.”