Review // Babylon Berlin

Title: Babylon Berlin (Gereon Rath #1)
Author: Volker Kutscher
Translator: Niall Sellar
Published: 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Readership: Adult
Genre: Crime
Rating: ★★★
RRP: $19.99 AUD

I received a copy of Babylon Berlin unsolicited from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

For some reason the thought of picking up Babylon Berlin and reading it was a bit confronting – but I feel that way about all books that I read that I haven’t personally chosen for myself. I know what I like to read and I’m pretty good at choosing books that fit my tastes, so trying the unknown can be scary.

I read Babylon Berlin for Tome Topple and I was pleasantly surprised by it.

In 1929 Berlin, Detective Inspector Gereon Rath finds himself attached to a case investigating a dead body pulled out of the Landwehr canal. It’s not initially his, having been booted from homicide to vice for a previous incident, and his work on the case is both frowned upon and encouraged from various individuals within the police force. However, nothing is as it seems, and Rath quickly finds himself embroiled in Berlin’s underworld of drugs, prostitution and shady politics.

I’m not familiar with 1920s Berlin, so this was eye-opening. Set between the two world wars, people are clearly still recovering from WWI even as the second war is bubbling away beneath the surface. Rath, himself, is a peculiar protagonist – at times I wanted to cheer for him and at others, I wanted to question his sanity for the decisions he makes.

What comes across very clearly in this book is the world in which the characters inhabit. It’s gritty and dark and you can feel the way politics intrudes on the day-to-day workings of the police. I was immersed in this world and it made me feel uncomfortable, because it was so well told.

I did find that there were parts that were quite slow (and I’m used to faster-paced crime novels), but the story is solid. I’m very intrigued now to watch the tv series on Netflix and see how it compares.

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