Babylon Berlin is a historical crime fiction novel written by Volker Kutscher. The book is set in Berlin during the Weimar Republic era, a period of great social and political change in Germany. The novel was first published in German in 2007 and was later translated into English in 2018 by Niall Sellar. This book review will explore the plot, characters, themes, and writing style of Babylon Berlin.
The novel follows the story of Gereon Rath, a detective from Cologne who has been transferred to Berlin to work for the Vice Squad. Gereon is haunted by his experiences in World War I and suffers from PTSD. He is trying to make a fresh start in Berlin and forget about his past, but the city and its people prove to be more complex than he had anticipated.
The plot is complex, and there are multiple storylines that intersect with each other. The main storyline revolves around the murder of an actress, Betty Winter. Gereon is tasked with investigating the case, but he soon discovers that there is more to the murder than meets the eye. He becomes embroiled in a web of corruption, politics, and organized crime, as he tries to uncover the truth behind Betty’s murder.
As Gereon delves deeper into the investigation, he realizes that there are powerful forces at play, and he must tread carefully if he wants to solve the case. He is aided in his investigation by Charlotte Ritter, a stenographer who is working part-time as a prostitute to support her family. Charlotte is a fascinating character who provides a different perspective on the social and economic conditions in Berlin at the time.
The characters in Babylon Berlin are well-developed, and each one has their own backstory and motivations. Gereon Rath is a complex character who is haunted by his past and trying to find his place in the world. He is determined to solve the case of Betty Winter’s murder, but he also has personal demons that he must confront.
Charlotte Ritter is a strong female character who defies societal norms and expectations. She is intelligent, resourceful, and has a sharp wit. Her character is a refreshing addition to the novel and provides an insight into the struggles of working-class women in Berlin during the Weimar Republic era.
Other characters in the novel include Sigi, Gereon’s partner on the Vice Squad, who is also involved in organized crime. Dr. Schmidt, a psychiatrist who is treating Gereon for PTSD, and the Winter family, who are all suspects in the murder case.
The novel explores several themes, including corruption, politics, social inequality, and the struggle for power. The Weimar Republic era was a time of great social and political upheaval in Germany, and the novel captures the essence of this period.
The theme of corruption is prevalent throughout the novel, and it is depicted in various forms. From the organized crime syndicates that control the city’s underground activities to the politicians who are more interested in furthering their own interests than serving the public.
The theme of social inequality is also explored in the novel. The characters from the upper class are portrayed as privileged and self-centered, while those from the lower class are struggling to make ends meet. Charlotte’s character provides a different perspective on this theme, as she is from a working-class background and is trying to find a way to improve her family’s circumstances.
Kutscher’s writing style is engaging, and he does an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere of Berlin in the 1920s. His descriptions of the city are vivid and detailed, and he creates a sense of tension and unease that permeates the novel.
The novel is well-paced, and the plot is complex but not convoluted and sets up an intriguing mystery, and I am excited to read the next book in the series.
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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher (2007)”
Everybody seems to have liked this novel but for me:)
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I can understand why someone wouldn’t like Babylon Berlin. I feel the same way about John Dickson Carr’s books- a fan and critical favorite, and I’m the odd one who dislikes his works.
I have a copy of this and have been meaning to read it for a while.
I also watched the tv series based on the book and enjoyed that too.
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