Children of Wrath Hardcover – Feb 28 2012
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—Publishers Weekly [starred review]
—Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
—Jewish Book World
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.