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Children of Wrath [Hardcover]

Paul Grossman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 28 2012
Willi Kraus, the celebrated WWI and detective, returns in this prequel story about how he became the most famous Jewish Detective in Germany in the days of the Weimar Republic
 
In Paul Grossman's Children of Wrath Willi Kraus tackles the case of the Kinderfresser, the vicious Child-Eater of Berlin.  Turning the clock back two years from The Sleepwalkers, the story starts out in the fall of 1929, the last days of prosperity.  Berlin is deep in the throes of a giddy rush to forget its troubled past.  But the same day the stock market crashes in New York, the dark underside of the German capital flushes to the surface in the form of a burlap sack spewed by floodwaters from the city sewer system.  When Willi is called to investigate and discovers the sack is full of children’s bones with teeth marks on them--and a bible with a single phrase circled in red: children of wrath--he fears he’s run into “something darker than he’s ever known.”

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Review

“Brilliant . . . . Kraus . . . is an attractively complex lead. [For] fans of cerebral murder mysteries.”
       —Publishers Weekly [starred review]

“To call this book enjoyable or satisfying feels wrong, because the deeds are so ugly. But it’s terrifying and worthy. Human nature has never looked so raw.”
       —Kirkus Reviews [starred review]

“Grossman brings Willi and Weimar Berlin vividly to life in this gripping mystery. This should thrill readers of procedural and forensic crime fiction as well as those interested in this time period.”
       —Library Journal

“All-stops-out action scenes . . . melded with a subtle and fascinating look at Jews in Berlin just before the Nazi menace took hold for good.”
       —Booklist

“This is a complex, multi-layered, and beautifully written novel that does an equally fine job of telling a tale and providing historical context.”
      —Jewish Book World

“Invokes the past in a masterful and authentic way. . . . [His first novel] received many accolades, and Grossman proves [that] was no fluke.”
       —Associate Press
  --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

PAUL GROSSMAN is the critically acclaimed author of The Sleepwalkers and Children of Wrath. He is a  long time teacher of writing and literature at the City University of New York. Visit him at his website at www.paulgrossmanwriter.com.


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4.0 out of 5 stars Good second book in a series. March 4 2012
By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Paul Grossman's second novel, "Children of Wrath", is actually a prequel to his first novel, "The Sleepwalkers". Both feature Willi Kraus, a Jewish detective at the "Alex", Berlin's police headquarters in the Alexanderplatz. "Sleepwalkers" takes place in 1932, as the Nazis are taking power, and "Children" is set in the late 1920's and early '30's.

Willi Kraus's position at the "Alex" as a special detective was already in jeopardy by 1929. The not-so-latent anti-semitism in Germany was expressed by his police superiors and he was not really accepted by his fellow officers. As a murder case - the discovery in a canal of the skinned, dismembered, and gnawed upon bodies of six young boys - shocks and sickens Berliners, Kraus was pulled off that case and assigned to another pressing case. Tainted meat is causing an outbreak of Listeria and 20 or so Berliners die before the source of the meat is found. Is there a connection between the two cases? Only Willi Kraus thinks so but he has been forbidden to look into the case of the dead boys. Soon, more boys are missing and presumed dead and more mutilated bodies are turning up. Since the bones look as if they have been munched on, the killer is referred to as "Die Kinderfresser" or "Child Eater".

Kraus works the case of the "Die Kinderfresser" without official sanction until the lead detective in the case is found brutally murdered. Kraus is given the order to find the monster plaguing the streets of Berlin, and the murders hit home - literally - when one of his own young sons vanishes. And all around Willi and his family, the Nazis are coming to power, both in the Reichstag and on the streets. The "jew-baiting" gets worse as the Depression tightens its grip on Germany and the rest of the world.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great historical mystery Feb. 28 2012
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In 1929 as the world economies collapse due to the failures of the finance system, Berlin police Detective Willi Kraus struggles with the anti-Semitism of his Aryan peers and superiors. Ebbing of flood water leaves a burlap sack behind. Kraus looks inside and sees boiled human bones macabrely sewed together bound together by thread made from muscle tissue and a bible extract circling the phrase "children of wrath". However, his being Jewish has his boss assign him an inquiry into tainted sausages that has poisoned hundreds.

Though he knows his heritage and religion has left him in precarious danger of being fired, Kraus works the human bones case without official sanctioning and over the objection of his wife who fears his actions will harm their children as the Nazis meteoric rise to power uses the Jews as their fuel. Kraus soon concludes this Kinderfesser Child Eater cannot do it alone

Fans who read The Sleepwalkers, which occurs in 1932, know the outcome of the horrific Kinderfresser serial killings, but that will not matter as this is a great historical mystery. The storyline brings to life the Weimer Republic at a time when the Great Depression has devastated global economics even more so in Germany and the Nazis are beginning to rise to power. With a Jeffrey Dahmer type killer based on a statue in Bern, readers will relish the actions of the diligent Jewish police detective working a particularly nasty case in a hostile prejudicial environment that threatens his family as much as himself.

Harriet Klausner
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have rarely been carried into another world so thoroughly as I was by this audiobook. Oct. 19 2012
By DWD's Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Published by HighBridge Audio in April of 2012.
Read by Kyle Munley.
Duration: 12 hours, 13 minutes.

Paul Grossman's Children of Wrath is a dark detective story set in one of the most tragic situations in all of history: The Weimar Republic in the weeks before the rise of the Nazis. A series of murders of boys combined with the impending failure of Germany's experiment with democracy, the collapse of the American stock market and the open street fighting between the Nazis and the Communists makes this tragic piece drip with a sense of the impending descent of Germany into the madness that enveloped it after the Nazis took command.

Willi Kraus is the only Jewish detective in the Berlin police force (and perhaps all of Germany). He is a decorated veteran of World War I but his country treats him with no respect because he is Jewish. His fellow detectives refuse to be his partner. His supervisor gives him insulting jobs. In this story he is re-assigned from a murder case (a burlap bag of bones from a boy with teeth marks on them is found washed up from a sewer line) to investigate an outbreak of Listeria that has killed consumers of pork sausage, with the implied insult of having a Jewish detective investigate a case involving the famously non-Kosher pork product.

But, as Willi digs into his new case he finds hints that the two cases might actually be connected and he starts his own private investigation as more and more boys go missing and more bones are found. While Kraus investigates, Grossman gives the reader a series of foreshadowings of the horrors and atrocities that await Germany. The railroad cars that come from Poland filled with hogs and cattle to the butchers in Germany will soon enough come full of people headed for slaughter. Hitler leads small rallies that inflame the passions of many who feel lost. Death camps, human skin used as leather, science gone wild all make appearances while Goebbels spreads his propaganda in the press. There are references to "useless mouths" and the incessant prejudice against Jews combine to leave Kraus and his family abandoned by co-workers and neighbors alike.

Grossman notes that this was also a time of a rise of the interest in paganism in Germany and that Hitler built on many of those pagan themes. Christians certainly bear plenty of responsibility for the Nazis, but it was certainly not friendly to traditional Christianity and built on a pagan base as well. At the end of the book Kraus comes across a group of Hitler Youth who are marching in the street and singing:

"We are the joyous Hitler Youth
Our leader is our savior.
The Pope and rabbit shall be gone
We want to be pagans again."

With that we know that Germany's future is sealed - the young people have bought into what Hitler is selling and the tragedy will continue to unfold.

This is by no means a perfect book. The climactic ending is too hoaky. It is dramatic, but it feels like the end of a Batman movie (and not one of the good ones, either). I don't want to go into specifics, but it does not fit well with the rest of this unique, moody, tragic book.

Nonetheless, I will still rate this book 5 stars out of 5. I have rarely been carried into another world so thoroughly as I was by this audiobook. Between the excellent writing and the dark tones of the reader, Kyle Munley this book really got into my head. Munley's great character voices, precise pronunciation of German words and phrases and his ability to carry the story through all of its ups and downs make this an exceptional audiobook experience.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Looks like you've seen the devil." March 12 2012
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Paul Grossman's "Children of Wrath" is set in Berlin between the two World Wars. From 1914-1924, Germany was devastated by hyperinflation and fiscal chaos. Afterwards, an interval of prosperity ensued. No one expected the disastrous economic downturn that would send Germany into a tailspin and help set the stage for the rise of National Socialism. The protagonist, thirty-four year old Sergeant-Detektiv Willi Kraus of the Berlin Kriminal Polizei, has a great deal on his mind. Although he is a decorated combat veteran and a skilled policeman, he has to cope with his colleagues' anti-Semitic slurs. In addition, the normally unflappable Kraus is shocked when a sewer backup at the bottom of a construction pit reveals "a real horror show": a burlap sack containing children's bones fashioned into grisly jewelry. Who would abduct and kill little boys and use their body parts in this macabre fashion? Willi is eager to capture the fiend responsible for this atrocity and bring him to justice.

The first half of the novel is promising. Grossman sets the stage expertly, revealing the ugliness and depravity of a city considered to be one of Europe's cultural capitals. While the upper classes dress in fine clothing, stay in grand hotels, and eat in trendy restaurant, homeless children roam the streets, desperate for a bite to eat. There is some fine descriptive writing, an insightful analysis of how and why the citizenry put their faith in Hitler, and a ghoulish criminal conspiracy. A recurring theme of animals being herded to the slaughter is a metaphor for the men, women, and children who would, in the future, be transported in cattle cars to concentration camps. The monstrous crimes committed in these pages are a fitting prelude to the collective madness that will engulf Germany.

Willi is kindhearted, compassionate, and clever. However, is he cunning enough to apprehend a killer without endangering himself and his family? In the final stages of the narrative, the author pulls out all the stops, presenting several psychotic villains who attack Willi and his associates. If Grossman had not concluded "Children of Wrath" so melodramatically, this could have been an outstanding historical thriller.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Children of Wrath Oct. 21 2012
By Gail Apfel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Children of Wrath was one of the most engrossing books I have read in a long time. It is a well written, well researched novel of pre World War II Germany. Truly a book to read more than once. I bought Children of Wrath for my Kindle, only to discover that Grossman had written another which was almost a pre-quill to this because he makes reference to characters and events, but that doesn't really matter. When I was reading, I really didn't want to put it down. I loved the interaction between the characters, and the historical references make the book come alive. This book could be considered to "a back to the future" in a the way. It really makes you look back in time and wish people had paid more attention to what was going on back then.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good second book in a series. March 4 2012
By Jill Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Paul Grossman's second novel, "Children of Wrath", is actually a prequel to his first novel, "The Sleepwalkers". Both feature Willi Kraus, a Jewish detective at the "Alex", Berlin's police headquarters in the Alexanderplatz. "Sleepwalkers" takes place in 1932, as the Nazis are taking power, and "Children" is set in the late 1920's and early '30's.

Willi Kraus's position at the "Alex" as a special detective was already in jeopardy by 1929. The not-so-latent anti-semitism in Germany was expressed by his police superiors and he was not really accepted by his fellow officers. As a murder case - the discovery in a canal of the skinned, dismembered, and gnawed upon bodies of six young boys - shocks and sickens Berliners, Kraus was pulled off that case and assigned to another pressing case. Tainted meat is causing an outbreak of Listeria and 20 or so Berliners die before the source of the meat is found. Is there a connection between the two cases? Only Willi Kraus thinks so but he has been forbidden to look into the case of the dead boys. Soon, more boys are missing and presumed dead and more mutilated bodies are turning up. Since the bones look as if they have been munched on, the killer is referred to as "Die Kinderfresser" or "Child Eater".

Kraus works the case of the "Die Kinderfresser" without official sanction until the lead detective in the case is found brutally murdered. Kraus is given the order to find the monster plaguing the streets of Berlin, and the murders hit home - literally - when one of his own young sons vanishes. And all around Willi and his family, the Nazis are coming to power, both in the Reichstag and on the streets. The "jew-baiting" gets worse as the Depression tightens its grip on Germany and the rest of the world. Jewish Berliners are beginning to think about leaving the country and many do as their positions and money are taken away by official government decrees.

And as the killings continue, Willi is able to find the killer. Not many readers will be able to stomach all he writes about "Die Kinderfresser".

Paul Grossman has written a very good book, but I am giving it four instead of five stars because he uses several time-worn plot points - chase scenes, trapped-in-buildings, behind-the-scenes mastermind, etc. Grossman's a clever enough writer that I think he could have used less conventional points. I suppose I expected a little more from Grossman, and maybe we'll see that in his next book. However, four stars or five, "Children of Wrath" is well worth reading.
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