In 1918 Berlin, the cops think they’ve got a serial killer on their hands until the latest victim turns out to be Rosa Luxemburg.
The killer’s fifth corpse has been mistreated in keeping with the established pattern, complex markings chiseled on its back. This is no ordinary corpse, however, but that of a driving force of the recently crushed socialist revolution. Suddenly, the Polpo (political police) are showing interest. Ever so politely, a territorial struggle has begun, and Kripo (criminal police) Detective Inspector Hoffner soon realizes he’s being warned off. But Hoffner, as all his colleagues know, is a bulldog who investigates with a tenacity often amounting to rashness. “It’s my case,” he tells his wife when she tries to suggest that some warnings might be well meant. “It ends when it ends.” Rosa is the obvious key. Was she the random victim of a killer whose bloodlust was up, or is someone using a madman to camouflage a conspiracy? Hoffner becomes a Luxemburg expert. He gets to know her friends, her early life, her writing. He gets to know who loved her, who hated and feared her. It’s an investigation that leads him to strange places and disturbing ideas, and when the case finally ends, he must come to terms with grievous loss.
As before (The Book of Q, 2001, etc.), Rabb saps the strength of a perfectly good story by taking too long to tell it.