Berlin, December 1939
As Germany goes to war, the Nazis tighten their terrifying grip. Paranoia in the capital is intensified by a rigidly enforced blackout that plunges the city into oppressive darkness every night, as the bleak winter sun sets.
When a young woman is found brutally murdered, Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is under immense pressure to solve the case, swiftly. Treated with suspicion by his superiors for his failure to join the Nazi Party, Schenke walks a perilous line – for disloyalty is a death sentence.
The discovery of a second victim confirms Schenke’s worst fears. He must uncover the truth before evil strikes again.
As the investigation takes him closer to the sinister heart of the regime, Schenke realises there is danger everywhere – and the warring factions of the Reich can be as deadly as a killer stalking the streets . . .
I’m not usually a big fan of thrillers set in the pre or early war, they always seem to be a little depressing and dark and i read for escapism. But its a Simon Scarrow book so how could i not be intrigued! Even if its a massive departure from his trademark ancient Rome, Simon has such an engaging writing style i hoped that it would remove that dark depressing element for me.
As usual with Simon Scarrows work its very character driven, which is perfect for me, you engage with the characters as much as the story and you become invested in them, their safety and they choices.
Blackout is in essence a crime thriller, that happens to be set in the winter of 1939 Berlin, yes its is dark, depressing and cold. Yet at the same time Simon makes it atmospheric, ethereal so full of danger and forbidding. His Lead character reminded me a little of the older Cato to begin with and Hauser (his second in command) a little of Macro, the initial interplay between them very reminiscent of the way they bounced off each other. But soon the new characters and story took flight and you get drawn into the dark dangers of Berlin, the power shifts between the different parts of the growing, expanding Nazi war machine, the political maneuvering that is beginning to underpin and control everything , even the facts of a murder case.
Our main character Schenke is a detective, driven by the love of the law and finding the truth, his approach sits at odds with the climate of follow the party line, and so he tries to walk the middle ground, stick to the facts have no political opinion…. and almost impossible task in this new Berlin.
I did find at times that the book freaked me out, you’re sat there reading about the political situation in the months before WW2 had begun, the control of the media, the fear of the masses, the dissemination of the “new” facts that the Nazis want you to believe, the twisted view and approach to life, and you cant help but think of Brexit, Covid and the current UK regime, it really sent chills down my spine how close we really are to repeating old mistakes.
The plot of the book brings in all of the investigation, the hunt for a psychotic rapist and killer, a man who could be mixed in with the highest powers of the Nazi party, the scary view that the message of who and how even when the case is solved, that what becomes the facts depends on Muller, the Gestapo and even higher to the very top of the Nazi regime. We experience the irrational view towards Jews, and at the same time we see that much of the German view is controlled by fear, that many like Schenke just want life to be fair, just and normal for all, to carry on with family at Christmas and to fall in love.
As my first read of 2021 it was really excellent, you feel the cold, the fear and the sudden violence, and you pull together the facts as they are presented, who the murderer is keeps you guessing right to the very end. I’m really looking forward to more of Schenke and Liebwitz (The Gestapo agent assigned to watch over him)