British novelist and translator Taylor (Walking Shadows, 1985) returns with an evocative tale set in the rubble of postwar Berlin, just as the Soviet blockade and the Allied airlift begin. Faintly echoing Oliver Twist, a band of thieving orphans in their nightmarish Kinder Garden is the main attraction, with Fagin transformed into Boss Kind, a young Jack the Ripper whose knife provides the corpses for the opening scene. James Blessed of the Special Investigation Branch tackles the case with his usual dogged determination, and as he moves obsessively into it, plagued by reminders of his own disastrous childhood, he isolates himself increasingly from both family and superiors, maintaining the grueling pace even as his wife leaves him. When daughter Daphne is abducted by the maniacal Boss Kind after an attempt on Blessed's life has gone awry, he's forced off the case. Continuing on his own initiative, he traps an informer and learns where Daphne is, leading to a showdown in the Russian sector in which the family secrets all come tumbling out. As much about family life broadly construed as about murder and drug-smuggling, the vivid portrayal of the Kinder Garden's society unto itself--where loyalty within the tribe is everything and adults are only ``Hats,'' never to be trusted--is profoundly moving. Next to this appalling reality of life in the ruins, the gentrified British scene seems lackluster and banal, so that the drama sinks into a maudlin mode whenever the Blessed family steps front and center. A fascinating, but flawed, thriller.