It is Jonathan Rabb’s wonderful idea in Rosa to investigate Luxemburg’s murder from the point of view of a Berlin police detective, Nikolai Hoffner, on the trail of a killer who leaves dead women at symbolic sites with fetishistic slashings on their bodies. At first, Rosa seems to be one such victim. But an anonymous source (Rosa’s lover, Leo Jogiches), a helpful scientist (Albert Einstein), an avant-garde artist (Käthe Kollwitz), the thuggish behavior of the Political Police (Polpo), and his own skeptical intelligence will lead Hoffner in a different direction, where he finds radical politics, reactionary bloodlust, and Romantic poetry too.
Rosa is a performance all the more astonishing in that there was already another novel on the same subject, Karl and Rosa (1950), the second volume in Alfred Döblin’s series November 1918. Döblin, a German-Jewish Expressionist writing machine best known for his Berlin Alexandeplatz (1929), fled from the Nazis to Paris and Los Angeles, where he seems to have read John Dos Passos and had no inhibitions about imagining Rosa’s fantasy life. The word for these pages of reverie is… embarrassing. Rabb, on the other hand, gives us a dreadful Berlin, a sinister Polpo, the sound of boots, the smell of corpses, patterns of guilt as runic as lace gloves and city streets, and a ghostly noir that could have been conspired at by Raymond Chandler and André Malraux. Leo Jogiches even sounds like Malraux: "I can’t choose when or how I die, Inspector, but I can choose why.”
Detroit Free Press
"...a novel so richly drawn, so dark and so compelling it reaches into your gut and holds on tight..."
"...Berlin is the chief character here, and Rabb artfully delineates the city as it emerges from war, defeat, and revolution into the shadow of nascent state terror."
Toronto Globe and Mail
"Any fan of historical mystery should read this. It's beautifully written,
full of perfectly set period detail. And at its heart, it is a brilliant,
real-life mystery transformed into fiction."
Advance Praise for Rosa
“In Rosa, Jonathan Rabb has created a fascinating tale of conspiracy and brutality in post–World War I Berlin, an evocative historical mystery that unfolds one horror after another. Rabb perfectly captures the dark beauty and complexity of this battle-scarred city, bringing Berlin to life as an utterly compelling and memorable character.” —Philip Kerr, author of the Berlin Noir trilogy
“As the historical mystery thriller comes into its own, there can be no doubt that the genre has, with Rosa, gained a new and altogether exemplary voice: Jonathan Rabb.” —Robert Cowley, editor of the What If? series
Praise for The Overseer
“Intelligent and skillful . . . [Rabb] unleashes dazzling plot twists and edge-of-the-chair confrontations as his tale rushes toward its big-bang ending. . . . A highly sophisticated and diverting thriller, superior entertainment.” —Washington Post Book World
“Ancient artifacts—the more spurious the better—are superb linchpins for any novel, and Rabb has chosen his well.” —Los Angeles Times
“The Overseer is an exceptional debut thriller, refreshingly original, with a feel-your-pulse plot that warp-speeds its way through the centuries. Jonathan Rabb writes with studied knowledge of his material. The characters are well-defined, the dialogue crisp, and the history a shake-and-stir mix of fact and fiction. . . . A smooth blend of Ian Fleming and Umberto Eco.” —Lorenzo Carcaterra, author of Sleepers and Apaches