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The March Fallen by Volker Kutscher (book review)

THE MARCH FALLEN Volker Kutscher

Goodreads description

1933: A homeless veteran is found dead under railway arches in Berlin; apparently killed by an army dagger. Gereon Rath is brought onto the case just as the Reichstag mysteriously burns down. Unsettled by the Nazis’ tightening grip; he and Charlotte Ritter must also contend with their political colleagues. The new Germany is frightening; but police work must go on even among book-burning and marching; rising paranoia and fear.

Thursday Quotables Meme

The March Fallen by Volker Kutscher is the fifth book in the Inspector Gereon Rath mystery series. I’ve only read the first novel in this series, but I can say that I much preferred that to this story.

There’s indeed a lot to like here, but it is bogged down by so many distracting things. First, Rath and Charly’s personal life. I find that too much time was devoted to it. It took away from the central mystery, to the point that it ended up not being central at all, especially in the first part of the story. Then Hannah’s tread, which I’m not sure why it was even there. It provided a clean solution for the money, in the end, and it gave Charly an active part in the story, but either it was mixed in awkwardly, or it wasn’t as necessary as the ‘screen time’ suggests.

The mystery in itself was quite interesting, but because the first part of the novel was mainly concerned with Rath and Charly’s private life, the mystery was crammed in the second part. This not only unbalanced the story, but also made for a lot of exposition rather than an unfolding. That’s why I say the mystery was interesting: I learned what it was all about, but I hardly experienced it.
I really liked the idea of the war gold and the ‘heist’, I also really like the idea of the pumped-up war memoir, and I wished they had a lot more space than they actually got. This was the core of the story, for me, but as the story is structured, it ended up being just an accessory.

Although I found a part of the historical setting was lacking, I nonetheless really liked the depiction of the rise of the Nazi at the time of their election to the German parliament. More than the actual facts, I enjoyed how the author looked at how people reacted to the election. It was a very complex situation, where people all expected something different, and were willing to downplaying the risks to see only what they desired.
This was rendered quite skillfully though the characters’ personality and emphasised by Rath’s and Charly’s different political stance. Where Rath isn’t interested in politics at all and tends to dismiss it in favour of more on-the-ground matters, Charly is very politically-aware and sees the rise of the Nazi with worry and even fear. Around them, people react to the Nazi rise in many different ways in between. This gives layer to this part of the story.
The mystery had the potential to be infused into this situation more than it actually was, but still, it was skillfully thought out, if maybe not as well executed.

It did drag in many places, but all in all, it was an enjoyable mystery.

The March Fallen

Excerpt

On Doretheestrasse they were greeted by a chill wind. They walked alongside one another, hands in pockets. ‘Your mother mentioned my visit?’ he asked.

‘And your story about my father.’

‘What do you think?’

‘Can I imagine my father is still alive, or that he’s a spineless killer?’

‘You’re well briefed.’ Rath took his cigarette case from his coat and held it out. The two men strolled on, smoking as they went.

‘I’m glad I ran into you,’ Rath said. ‘Is the semester break, isn’t it?’

‘You can study outside of lectures.’

‘But your… studies have little to do with the furniture business…’

‘Because I want nothing to do with it.’

‘Who will carry it into the fourth generation?’

‘My mother has taken care of all that. In times like these it falls to others to safeguard the store’s future.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I’m half-Jewish, Inspector, even if I’ve never set foot in a synagogue. Though that’s also true of many who count as “full Jews” in the eyes of the anti-Semites.’

‘So?’

‘What kind of future do you suppose a Jewish furniture business has in the new Germany?’

‘Come off it! What use is anti-Semitism to the Nazi now they’re in power? Things aren’t nearly as bad as people make out.’

‘I wish I shared your confidence. My mother certainly doesn’t. Why do you think she reverted to her maiden name? My father could have been baptized a hundred times, but as far as Bonn society’s concerned we’ll always be Jew upstart.’ He gazed at Rath critically. ‘What is it you want?’

‘Anything you can tell me about your father.’

‘Inspector, I don’t know if I can help you. I was twelve when my mother told me Father wouldn’t be coming home. She never used words like dead or killed in action, but we knew, Edith and I. Like her we still hoped that one day he might return.’

‘And now?’

‘My father is dead. I can feel it.’

Thursday Quotables The March Fallen pinterest

The Thursday Quotables was originally a weekly post created by Lisa Wolf for her book blog Bookshelf Fantasy. It isn’t a weekly post anymore, not even for Lisa, but just like her, I still love to share my favourite reads on Thursday and I still use the original template which included an excerpt.


2 Comments

  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted October 29, 2020 at 14:54

    It’s always a balance, isn’t it, Sarah, between giving the reader important information, and putting too much emphasis on that. As you say, if the mystery part of a story is too rushed, and there’s not enough focus on it, then it’s harder to engage in the story.

    • Post Author
      jazzfeathers
      Posted October 30, 2020 at 18:49

      True. Which in this case is a shame. I really liked the idea at the core of the mystery. There was also a big potential in terms of historical implications. My feeling is that the author only scratched the surface.

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