A Second Guilty Pleasure

Longtime Readers may recall that I’ve confessed to a guilty pleasure: reading writer John Sandford’s novels (both the Lucas Davenport- and Virgil Flowers sagas). Well, old Lucas is getting a little long in the tooth (although his latest career move seems to have rejuvenated him), and I’m a little iffy about Virgil Flowers’ character, so subconsciously I’ve been looking for a replacement guilty pleasure — and I think I’ve found it.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Volker Kutscher‘s Inspector Gereon Rath of the Berlin CID’s Homicide Division. Except that whereas Davenport and Flowers are both set in contemporary Minneapolis, Rath is busy solving murders in Depression-era Berlin — to be specific, 1929-1938: one of my all-time favorite periods of history, and my dream setting for a novel*.

I think Rath is one of the best characters in fiction, of any genre, and I am so fortunate to have discovered him. (By the way, I found Babylon Berlin by chance at Foyle’s Books, which makes up for my disappointment at their “modernization” of the venerable establishment.) I read the novel in one night, and went straight back the next day to buy Silent Death.)

And the novels really are terrific: as I said, Babylon Berlin took me just one night to read and Silent Death only a little longer than that, because I didn’t want it to end quickly, so much was I enjoying it. Sadly, only these two (of the half-dozen Rath novels extant) have been translated into English so far, so I won’t be able to binge-read them; but you can be sure I’ll buy the rest as soon as they’re available. (Sadly, my conversational German is adequate, but my literary German is schrecklich, so I’ll just have to be patient.)

Even better, Babylon Berlin has been made into a 16-part TV series for German TV, so if anyone from Netflix is reading this… oh, wait: someone’s on the ball already. I can’t wait.

*I was contemplating writing a companion piece to Vienna Days, to be set in 1928 Berlin, but there’s no need now: Kutscher has relieved me of the responsibility. So: 1900 Budapest it will have to be.


  1. Ya know, before you write the companion to Vienna Days, you should ebookize (totally a word) VD (hmmm – maybe not the best abbreviation) so it’s available on Kindle, Nook, and other e-book readers.

    At any rate, thanks for the recommendation. I’ve just grabbed a copy of Babylon Berlin to see how I like it.

  2. Try the Bernie Gunther series of Berlin Noir novels by Philip Kerr.
    Marlowe with blond hair.

  3. Perhaps you might dabble in non fiction. Check out In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. And also Dead Wake.

  4. Budapest 1900, please, ASAP.

    I got dragged to Budapest 3 years ago by my wife and oldest son, who was very attached to his Hungarian grandfather. I say dragged because, being ignorant, I resisted a visit to a place I conceived as being a primitive and poor survivor of both Russians and communism. Too depressing I thought.

    If I get to Budapest again, I’m staying for a very long visit. Fabulous place, especially the statue of Ronald Reagan the Hungarians put up in 2011 in Liberty Square out of gratitude for his help in kicking the Russians out.

    Did you read Kutscher in German, or translation?

    1. I was in Hungary last year. Wonderful country, and Budapest is gorgeous. Not to mention that while Western Europe is expensive, Eastern Europe is a bargain.

      1. There’s a fake English pub on Terez Korut that sells real English beer for $US0.90 a liter at happy hour.

        Plus, many outstanding Hungarian wines are made in production quantities too small to economically exported so one is forced to drink them locally.

        The sacrifices I made for wife and son …

  5. My all time favorite novels are by Nelson DeMille. Don’t let his credit as the source for the movie “The General’s Daughter” fool you. “Plum Island” and “The Charm School” are first rate.

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