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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sleepwalkers Book Review

For the month of August, one of my Goodreads groups, Ancient & Medieval Historical Fiction, read a book called Sleepwalkers, by Paul Grossman.

Goodreads Blurb: In the final weeks of the Weimar Republic, as Hitler and his National Socialist party angle to assume control of Germany, beautiful girls are seen sleepwalking through the streets.  Then, a young woman of mysterious origin, with her legs bizarrely deformed, is pulled dead from the Havel River.  Willi Kraus, a high ranking detective in Berlin's police force, begins a murder investigation. A decorated World War I hero and the nation's most famous detective, Willi also is a Jew. Despite his elite status in the criminal police, he is disturbed by the direction Germany is taking.  Working urgently to solve the murder, Willi finds his superiors diverting him at every turn. As he moves through darkness closer to the truth, Willi begins to understand that much more than the solution to a murder is at stake. What he discovers will mean that his life, the lives of his friends and family, and Germany itself will never be the same.

Okay, let me start out by saying this book is awesome! I actually really liked it! But, that said, let's back-peddle a bit. 

While I was reading it, it was kind of meh. I really liked the character of detective/inspector Willi Kraus. I thought he was interesting, down-to-earth and very human--in a good way. I loved that he was great at his job, that he had a history (and from it some fame) of bringing down really base criminals, including a child-eater. 

That said, the writing could have been better in places. It was very readable, but there were a few spots where the amateur nature of the writing pulled me out of the story. 

Though the mystery was pretty good--I especially liked that Grossman didn't try to sugarcoat it; he wasn't afraid to get into the true horrors of human experimentation and nazi war crimes--it still didn't blow my socks off.

As I was reading, I kept thinking that the most interesting aspect of the book was the historical setting. The fact that it takes place just before Hitler took power prior to WWII was the thing that made it the most intriguing.  Even saying that, I still would have found the novel to be only mediocre if it hadn't been for the ending. This was one of those stories where the ending made the entire novel!

Not only was the end heart-wrenching and chillingly prophetic, but the author used a great deal of historical fact and worked it into the story. That allowed him to write an afterward that just gave me chills when he explained what different characters (especially the evil ones) went on to do during the war and how things turned out in the annals of history. 

It was that (because I'm such a history geek) that made me love this book. The end sort of blew my mind. 

Overall, I liked it a lot. I thought it was a unique perspective to have a character living in Berlin, trying to solve a crime just prior to the time when the nazis took power. He goes into the state of things in the city, the political clime, what people were thinking that led to them handing power (legally) to Hitler, etc. It's a unique story and one that I would highly recommend to anyone curious about this time period and this particular sequence of events. It's fascinating, enlightening, and also a lot of fun. :D

I will cross-post on Goodreads and Amazon!


  1. Oh wow! This book sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it! I will have to check it out now :)

    1. No problem, Kristina! Hope you like it! :D