Monday, November 03, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: The Summer of Long Knives by Jim Snowden

As his car crunched the gravel on the side of the road next to the Epp Farm, Kommissar Rolf Wundt once again had to lean forward, pinch the bridge of his nose, and force his eyes open. ~ Opening of The Summer of Long Knives



The Summer of Long Knives by Jim Snowden
Booktrope Editions, 2013
Crime Fiction; 320 pgs

This book drew me to it most of all because of the setting in which it takes place. Munich, 1936. The Nazi Party was in power.  Kommisar Rolf and his wife desperately want to leave Germany for safer ground. Their politics will only make them targets for those in charge. Already Rolf's wife, a once respected psychiatrist, is out of her job because of politics and her gender. Soon, the Gestapo will be taking over the police force, and where would that leave Rolf?

With pressure from his wife who desperately wants out and his boss who wants him to stay, at least to finish out Rolf's current investigation, Rolf finds himself between a rock and a hard place. If it weren't for his own strong sense of justice, Rolf probably would have defied his boss and left sooner, but he just can't let it go, especially when the wrong people are accused, tried and found guilty of the crime.  The crime: the brutal assault and murder of a girl, a member of the League of Girls. Rolf's investigation takes him to the underground Communist movement and among the most powerful in the Nazi Party. His marriage is tested as he wars with moral issues within himself.

Rolf is met with quite a bit of resistance in his investigation, from Jewish people who will not trust him to those in privileged positions who believe themselves above the law. With the Nazis breathing down his neck, trying to thwart his investigation with their conspiracy theories about Jews and Communists being the perpetrators of all crime, Rolf finds he must be cautious and cunning in his efforts to find the truth.

What I liked most about the novel were the historical details about what life was like in Germany right before the war, although admittedly some of the more minor details I question the accuracy of (use of certain terms and items not yet widely known or used in 1936). I was not pulled out of the story at all, however.

As I read, I may have blurted out loud my frustration at the rhetoric and obvious prejudice of some of the characters, even knowing most were fictional. Like Rolf, I wanted to get to the truth of who the killer was and stop him from killing anyone else. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him, working with such incompetent people who really were only out for themselves, and who did not seem to care about justice nor about their fellow human beings, regardless of race or politics.

I was not too sure what to think about Rolf in the beginning.  The first two chapters did not warm me to him, particularly the way he treated his first suspect in the murder investigation.  By the third chapter though, I found I liked Rolf and was completely on his side. He is a flawed character, as were many of the characters in the book, and while I did not agree with all the decisions he made, I could see why he made them.  His wife was an interesting character, and Rolf called upon her expertise quite a bit throughout the case. I appreciated his honesty with her--a product of past slights, to be sure, but refreshing just the same.

The Summer of Long Knives is not just a mystery about a murder investigation. It is also about a dark time in our world's history, about the abuse of power, morality, and how it impacted the people at the heart of it.  I appreciated the depth the author went to in creating Rolf's character as well as his wife's. The Nazi characters were less fleshed out and seemed stereotypical, but given the type of book this is, it did not bother me too much. I do wish I could have known more about Hans-Josef, Rolf's protege. There's one part of the story in which I was both happy and sad for him--over good news--knowing the fate of his country.

An old case of Rolf's that still haunts both him and his wife is mentioned several times, along with an old affair Rolf had with a Communist Jewess. The woman he once had an affair with plays an important role in this book. I thought for sure as I read this book must be part of a series. It reads like one given how vague and yet prominent the details were about the previous case and affair. The Summer of Long Knives is a stand alone, however.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Jim Snowden's The Summer of Long Knives. There is nothing light about this mystery thriller.  It is very dark, and well it should be given the time period and place in our history. I was swept up in Rolf's life and investigation, anxious to see justice brought to the killer, while at the same time sad knowing the fate of the country, of the war to come and the many more injustices that would occur in the meantime.

Rating: * (Good +)

To learn more about Jim Snowden, and his work, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Summer of Long Knives on the TLC Book Tours route!




Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. E-Copy of the book provided by the publisher.



© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

20 comments:

  1. The setting, the premise and the characterisations all make this book sound interesting! Great review, Wendy!

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    1. Melody - I thought it was very interesting and thought provoking. I can't imagine being in Rolf's situation, seeing so much injustice, some of which he has no power to do anything about.

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  2. It is such an interesting setting, both time and place. Sounds good, even though definitely a dark period in history.

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    1. Jenclair - I agree. It was such a dark time in human history, the choices made and how blindly people followed, whether from fear or fervor.

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  3. To me blurting out loud your opinions is a sign of a good read. So glad you enjoyed this one, it sounds like the kind of novel I'd also enjoy.

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    1. Tracy - Haha! Yes, it can be. And in this case it was. :-)

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  4. If you like the historical details of this one, you probably would also like "In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin," which is pretty chilling but interesting too.

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    1. Sandra - I've heard of In the Garden of Beasts, but haven't read it. Thank you for the recommendation! I'll have to look for it.

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  5. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who does that, talks to the characters in books. It's like wanting to shout at Friar Laurence to hurry up and get to the Capulet crypt already!

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    1. LuAnn - Exactly! Sometimes I just can't help myself.

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  6. I like the sound of this one. I am going to check it out. I find that I can never get enough of Germany during the war. This one also feels very atmospheric.

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    1. Athira - I'm really drawn to this time period too, and all aspects of it really. It was such an interesting time in our history--both good and bad.

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  7. The Nazi period is not my favorite read. I did watch Fury at the theater last weekend and that was enough for awhile!

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    1. Stacy - I don't remember hearing much about Fury--now you've got me curious. :-)

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  8. I was on the tour for this one and, though I liked the concept of the story, it just didn't come alive for me. I agree with you that particularly the Nazi party men are not very well developed and I also wish we'd known more about the victims. That would have made me more invested in getting the killer caught.

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    1. Sarah - I remember you not connecting with this one the way you hoped, and you make very valid points. The victims themselves weren't really discussed, which does put a distance between the reader and the crime. It would have been nice for the girls to be made more flesh and blood in order for the reader to be more invested in that part of the story. For me, I think I was less interested in the murders than I was about other aspects of the book, including Rolf's personal life. It seemed to me that was more of the focus--and Rolf's inner struggles. At least that was what I took away from it.

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  9. Dark stuff isn't grabbing me right now (it's like the switch flipped to romances the day after Halloween!) but the setting of this one sounds really fascinated. I've read several books set in the prewar years but never one set in Germany. Despite the flaws this does sound like a book worth reading. Thanks for sharing! I'm adding this to the list of books I reach for when darker stuff starts looking good again.

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    1. Katherine - I'm in the mood for something light too, hence my current feel good read. :-) Not to mention all this overwhelmedness I am feeling right now (yes, I just made up that word). I need escape right now.

      Anyway, back to The Summer of Long Knives, yes it's definitely a book I recommend you be in the mood to read if you decide to give it a try.

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  10. This was certainly a dark time in history - very scary as well.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour! I'm glad you enjoyed this book.

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    1. Heather - It was! I can't imagine living in a time like that, when you were afraid of your own neighbors and coworkers.

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