Summary and book reviews of Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver

Garden of Beasts

By Jeffery Deaver

Garden of Beasts
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2004,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2005,
    576 pages.

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Book Summary

In the most ingenious and provocative thriller yet from the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jeffery Deaver, a conscience-plagued mobster turned government hitman struggles to find his moral compass amid rampant treachery and betrayal in 1936 Berlin.

Paul Schumann, a German American living in New York City in 1936, is a mobster hitman known as much for his brilliant tactics as for taking only "righteous" assignments. But then Paul gets caught. And the arresting officer offers him a stark choice: prison or covert government service. Paul is asked to pose as a journalist covering the summer Olympics taking place in Berlin. He's to hunt down and kill Reinhard Ernst -- the ruthless architect of Hitler's clandestine rearmament. If successful, Paul will be pardoned and given the financial means to go legit; if he refuses the job, his fate will be Sing Sing and the electric chair.

Paul travels to Germany, takes a room in a boardinghouse near the Tiergarten -- the huge park in central Berlin but also, literally, the "Garden of Beasts" -- and begins his hunt. In classic Deaver fashion, the next forty-eight hours are a feverish cat-and-mouse chase, as Paul stalks Ernst through Berlin while a dogged Berlin police officer and the entire Third Reich apparatus search frantically for the American.

Garden of Beasts is packed with fascinating period detail and features a cast of perfectly realized locals, Olympic athletes and senior Nazi officials -- some real, some fictional. With hairpin plot twists, the reigning "master of ticking-bomb suspense" (People) plumbs the nerve-jangling paranoia of prewar Berlin and steers the story to a breathtaking and wholly unpredictable ending.

Chapter One

As soon as he stepped into the dim apartment he knew he was dead.

He wiped sweat off his palm, looking around the place, which was quiet as a morgue, except for the faint sounds of Hell's Kitchen traffic late at night and the ripple of the greasy shade when the swiveling Monkey Ward fan turned its hot breath toward the window.

The whole scene was off.

Out of kilter...

Malone was supposed to be here, smoked on booze, sleeping off a binge. But he wasn't. No bottles of corn anywhere, not even the smell of bourbon, the punk's only drink. And it looked like he hadn't been around for a while. The New York Sun on the table was two days old. It sat next to a cold ashtray and a glass with a blue halo of dried milk halfway up the side.

He clicked the light on.

Well, there was a side door, like he'd noted yesterday from the hallway, looking over the place. But it was nailed shut. And the window that let onto the fire escape? Brother, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

'The Garden of Beasts' is Deaver's 19th novel and his latest break from the Lincoln Rhyme series. Paul Schumann is a German-American veteran of World War I. He is also a hit man (although one with principles as he only kills 'bad' people). He's recruited against his will to assassinate a key Nazi at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Although the assassination target himself is fictional, top Nazis such as Hitler, Himmler and Goring appear with plausible cameo roles. Of course, it goes without saying that the assassination doesn't go to plan, instead Schumman finds himself on the run through the heart of Berlin and from there the story twists and turns in true Deaver fashion.  

Media Reviews
Amazon.com - Jeremy Pugh

Deaver's novel, equal parts noir thriller and historical extrapolation, is a page-turner that offers a twisting visceral experience of the tension in Berlin during that fateful summer. He draws sympathetic portraits of everyday Germans caught between duty to country and their consciences.

Publishers Weekly

An affecting love affair between Paul and his German landlady goes in surprising directions, as do the main plot lines, which move outside Berlin as heroes become villains and vice versa. This is prime Deaver, which means prime entertainment.

Booklist - David Pitt

Deaver's audience will be pleased with this one, but it will be an equally big hit with fans of such Nazi-era thrillers as Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy or Robert Harris' Fatherland.

Kirkus Reviews

Just the thing for readers who'd like to channel their frustration over the current geopolitical mess into the traditional American values of cleverness, adaptability, and vigilante violence in the best of all possible causes.

Library Journal - Robert Conroy

Following Schumann through a multitude of twists, turns, and betrayals is exciting and helps illuminate the early days of the Third Reich. Highly recommended.

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