I was interested in reading this novel because it is set in 1932-3 Germany, the end of the Weimar Republic and beginning of Hitler's Third Reich. This period and on through World War II in Germany's history is endlessly fascinating to me. How could Hitler and his Nazi Party seduce a whole country and commit such horrors as the attempt to annilate all Jews, gypsies, communists, handicapped people, and anyone else they didn't like? All this in an effort to form an unsullied blue-eyed, blond, strong Aryan nation, which of course if taken to the extreme would have taken out Hitler himself with his dark hair and eyes, and his Austrian childhood.
So, perhaps because I have read so much about Germany's history, this novel scared me half to death from beginning to breathless end. Grossman has taken some actual events from later in the 1930s and incorporated them into the story, but most of this actually happened during the 1930s.
The hero is Willi Kraus, a police detective in Berlin, who has achieved something of a celebrity status because his investigation had run down a serial child killer. That status opens doors and protects him in the first part of the book. Unfortunately in this time and place, though, Kraus is a Jew, a widower with two young sons which make him vulnerable. He also has ties to the government which put a target on his back with the growing Nazi Party.
One morning he is called to a crime scene by the river. The body of a pretty young woman has washed up on shore. Everyone is standing around horrified because her lower leg bones have been surgically reversed. This case will lead Kraus on a trip to Hell, and the story will include an evil man who really did medical "experiments" on people, Dr. Josef Mengele.
I couldn't read this book fast enough and yet occasionally I had to get away from it. I found myself warning characters under my breath as I read or breathing a sigh of relief when imminent danger was averted. I was so caught up in the story that I was nervous until the end. If that's the mark of a good novel, this one is very good. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time.
I won this book from LibraryThing and the recently released paperback version is available at Amazon.com or your bookstore.