Monday, 27 January 2014

A Murder In Auschwitz


A Murder In Auschwitz
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy!
Source: Copy courtesy of Goodreads Giveaways!

Auschwitz 1944, an SS officer is found standing over the body of a comrade, the smoking pistol still in his hand, a murder in a place full of murders. The officer is adamant of his innocence. With no confession, a court martial is forced, asked to pick a fellow officer to defend him, he picks the only man he can feel he can trust. But, he makes one other request, to have a prisoner, a Jew, also a lawyer to help his defending officer build his defence case. In exchange for the chance to see the family he was seperated from, former criminal defence lawyer Manfred Meyer is forced to build a defence for him. Meyer must unravel the deceit, the lies and the secrets surrounding the SS officer murdered, and the defendant.

Berlin 1929, we start to follow Manfred Meyer and his family through their lives in Berlin. We follow Meyer as he rises from intern, to assistant to a leading Criminal Defence lawyer at a highly respected law firm, following along his cases get more complex. We follow the lives of Meyer and his family as the Nazi party eventually comes to power, things slowly start to change, life becomes more and more difficult for Meyer as a Jew in Berlin. Then when the knock comes at the door, we follow Meyer on a terrifying train journey to the place where so many lost their lives. Where so many innocents where murdered.

I was sent a copy of this book that I had one from Goodreads in exchange for a review, and it's one of the best I have received. This book for me, brought so many memories flooding back. When studying History at school, we went to visit a concentration camp in Berlin, and while not exactly the same as Auschwitz, it bared many of the same hallmarks, the shooting wall, the chambers where experiments where carried out, crematoriums, and similar bunks. As I was reading, I kept flashing  back to that trip and everything I had seen which made this book even more emotional for me.

Stephenson must have done a hell of a lot of research for this book, there was lots of detail about the process entering Auschwitz, and the day to day life of the prisoners, as well as the build up to Nazi power and what went on once they where in power. Everything described I could picture so clearly despite never having been to visit Auschwitz myself. The story is a cycle, starting with Meyer and his life leading up to the ending when he first arrives at Auschwitz in alternating chapters with the second thread of the story starting with him arriving, and his life at the camp including the murder trial of the SS officer. It was really very brilliantly written, with lots of threads, historical accuracy and the alternating chapters kept it fresh and engaging.

The flow of the book was very smooth, moving easily between the different years in the chapters. The book was very fast paced, lots happened, and everything fit together perfectly. I was hooked right from the first page, the writing was very atmospheric and very haunting. The characters where also very well written, and had plenty of depth, I also got the impression that a certain SS soldier, may not agree with what was going on, but didn't want to be killed himself so went along with it, something I'm sure many of them felt. There was a very authentic and real feel to the book, when I started reading the book, I briefly wondered if this wasn't a history book, and not a work of fiction.

A Murder In Auschwitz is incredibly well written and researched, expertly weaving the many threads in to one complex plot. The mystery is very intriguing, I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I couldn't tell who the killer was, I was at the author's mercy, believing everything I was presented with. I couldn't put the book down, the love Meyer had for his wife was truly beautiful, and the mystery kept me intrigued right up until the end. While the processes of Auschwitz are described in concise detail, some of the details are truly horrifying to think about, but there wasn't too much in depth detail, or dwelling on the more gruesome aspects of life at the camp.

A Murder In Auschwitz is an incredibly emotional read, I ended up finding myself crying once or twice, and the entire book has a huge impact on you, even after you've finished reading. A truly beautifully written book, by a very talented author. I'd never have guessed this was his first book!

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