In Berlin, during the Socialist upheavals
of 1919, Detective-Inspector Nikolai Hoffner and his ambitious
but bumbling assistant Hans Fichte have their hands full. The
bodies of several women are being discovered in excavation
pits, each with an unusual pattern cut into her back. One of
the bodies is that of Rosa Luxemburg, the revolutionary cofounder
of Spartacus (later the German Communist Party). Soon complications
arise, including a copycat killer, the intervention of the
political police, a deranged former lace-maker escaped from
an asylum in Belgium, and the possible involvement of the military.
Rabb (The Book of Q) spins a complex tale that is so convoluted
interest wanes in the last third of the book. But his re-creation
of post-World War I Berlin is masterful, and the relationship
between the brilliant but flawed detective and his inexperienced
assistant is absorbing. For readers who enjoy speculative history
and intricate mysteries.