Rosa: Book summary and reviews of Rosa by Jonathan Rabb

Rosa

A Novel

By Jonathan Rabb

Rosa
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2005,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

A murdered revolutionary . . .
A vicious serial killer . . .
A city in chaos . . .
All lead to Rosa.

In the last days of the First World War, socialist revolution swept across Germany, sending Kaiser Wilhelm into exile and transforming Berlin into a battleground. But for Detective Inspector Nikolai Hoffner and his young assistant, Hans Fichte, the revolution is a mere inconvenience. Four women from the slums of Berlin have turned up dead, all with identical markings etched into their backs, and Hoffner and Fichte have spent the better part of six weeks trying to crack the bizarre case.

Things take a troubling turn when the political police begin to show an interest in Hoffner’s investigation. Hoffner has no idea why the Polpo would want to get their hands dirty with a serial murderer, until he is shown the lifeless body of Rosa Luxemburg, the same eerie markings on her back. Rumors abound that Rosa, one of the leaders of the suppressed socialist uprising, was assassinated by an angry mob, but the pattern carved into her back tells a different story.

In his remarkable new thriller, Jonathan Rabb paints a vivid, unforgettable picture of a city and a people poised between the chaos of the First World War and the darkness to come, a time when political thugs, petty thieves, and charismatic leaders rushed to fill the void left behind. Into this gap steps Hoffner, who, while battling his own personal demons, is still determined to find out who is preying on the women of Berlin, even as he gets drawn deeper into the mystery surrounding Rosa’s death. Hoffner’s search for the killer leads him on a dark and twisted journey through the battle-scarred streets of the city, where he soon discovers that nothing is as it appears. And while he finds allies in unexpected places, he is met at every turn by men who will stop at nothing to keep him from finding out the truth about Rosa.

A genuine mystery at the time, Rosa’s fate has continued to prompt speculation to this day. Rabb’s taut political thriller imagines one strikingly real possibility. With his first two novels, The Overseer and The Book of Q, Rabb proved that he had a talent not only for writing suspenseful narratives but for illuminating the darkest corners of history as well. With Rosa, his finest work, he brings to life a world capital on the brink of chaos, a tragic revolutionary who both inspired and enraged, and a compellingly complex, world-weary, deeply flawed but brilliant inspector named Nikolai Hoffner.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Sometimes the novel's prose is rather tangled and Rabb struggles to get his story told, but subtexts of love, betrayal and a detective at war with his feelings illuminate this gothic tapestry of anti-Semitism and ethnic elitism with its foreshadowing of the Nazi era." - Publishers Weekly.

"Starred Review. Casting a longtime police detective as the hero works brilliantly, since the reader shares Hoffner's shock at the changes writ large on every piece of Berlin pavement." - Booklist.

"Any fan of historical mystery should read this. ... at its heart, it is a brilliant, real-life mystery transformed into fiction." - Toronto Globe and Mail.

"Rabb saps the strength of a perfectly good story by taking too long to tell it." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Author Information

Jonathan Rabb Author Biography

Joyce Ravid

Jonathan Rabb is best known for his Berlin Trilogy (Rosa, Shadow and Light, and The Second Son) the critically acclaimed series of historical thrillers set in Berlin and Barcelona between the World Wars, from 1919 to 1937. In 2006, Rabb won the international Dashiell Hammett prize at the Spanish Semana Negra Festival for Rosa, the first novel of his trilogy, about the mystery surrounding the murder of Socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg. He is also the author of The Overseer and The Book of Q.

The son and grandson of historians on both sides—his father is Princeton University professor of Renaissance and Reformation history, Theodore K. Rabb—Jonathan Rabb was initially convinced that his future would lie in academia. In 1992, Rabb was in Germany as a Fulbright scholar, ...

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