Faye Kellerman,
Straight into Darkness
(Time Warner, 2005)

Just about every time and place of history is fair game for a mystery, including pre-World War II Germany. Of course, with this era as a backdrop, it can be difficult to have moral shadings and not have people be totally good or evil.

Faye Kellerman partially solves this problem by making her detective a Munich police inspector, German but not Nazi. Axel Berg is no fan of Adolf Hitler, who makes a cameo appearance in Axel's investigations. And Berg is no saint. He takes money found at the scene of a crime and, unknown to his wife and children, has a Jewish mistress. However, he is intelligent and determined, which lets him be tolerated by superiors who favor the rising Nazi Party.

Berg is assigned to uncover a serial killer who preys on young women. The complicated plot brings in aristocratic Jews, art dealers, Communists, English imposters and other citizens of 1929 Germany.

It is difficult to keep track of the characters in this audiobook that offers an abridged version of the novel on five CDs. The German accents and names start to run together after a while. It is no fault of reader Paul Michael, since German accents are about the only choice here.

Stripped of novelistic detail, the story tends to flag at the end. There is a long section where Berg mentally goes over the possible guilt of the characters in his mind, which stops the action cold. I will not give a spoiler, but the ending turns out to be as dark as Germany was.

Straight into Darkness seems to be more interesting for its background than its plot, so this book might be better read than listened to.

by Dave Howell
21 April 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.