The Killing of Emma Gross by Damien Seaman – review

February 16, 2012

The Killing of Emma Gross is a piece of historical fiction loosely based on the murders committed by Peter Kurten in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1929-30.  If Kurten’s name doesn’t ring a bell with you, dear reader, don’t go googling around the web or anything before picking up the novel as Damien Seaman lays out the facts of the real case tres-fucking clearly for you in the last section of the book.  If you do know who Peter Kurten was, well, fucking bully for you, I guess, but knowledge of the case or no, you’re gonna wanna pick up this beast toot-fucking-sweet, as it’s one nasty police procedural that basement crazies like you and I can recommend to the numerous “exotic locale” mystery lovers in our lives without any guilt.  (You know, those stuck-up totebaggers who won’t pick up a crime novel unless the author has a bunch of umlauts, tildes and accents hovering over every other letter of their name.)

The story follows down-and-out cop Thomas Klein as he brings down the infamous “Dusseldorf Ripper” who has been terrorizing the city.  His collar is unjustly claimed by his ex-partner Ritter who is out for his Klein’s blood after Klein boned his wife a couple years back, and Klein is shut out from the investigation.  Thing is turns out the Ripper, real name Peter Kurten, wants only to talk to Klein, forcing Ritter to let Klein interview the suspect.  But Klein’s questioning leads to some troubling holes in Kurten’s story, mainly regarding Kurten’s claims to having killed a prostitute the year before named Emma Gross.  Against the wishes of Ritter and the rest of the department, Klein starts looking into the Gross case, and you better believe that dude quickly finds that all is not well in Dusseldorf.

Seaman is able to bring you into this setting and time easily, giving you just enough color and lore without bogging down his story with excessive details.  He keeps both the mysteries of both “who killed Emma Gross” and “what is Thomas Klein’s problem” tantalizing and their resolutions are satisfying as well.  Seaman also finds a nice balance in his depiction of Kurten, managing to make him clearly evil and deranged while also showing how easily he could manipulate his many victims with his innocuousness and impeccable manners.

But my favorite parts of The Killing of Emma Gross are when Klein hits the streets, going from post-Weimar era cabaret to back-door abortionist outfit and everywhere in between the two, taking buses and cabs or simply walking, this being a time when cars weren’t standard for cops.  Just something about that twist on the classic detective novel, that he has no car, makes the Nerd ridiculously happy for unknown fucking reason.  If you snatch up this book, you’ll soon wish you could walk alongside Klein as well, asking the tough questions and getting the most horrifying of answers.

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Nerd of Noir

I love crime/noir fiction, comics and movies. I think my opinions are web-worthy. Then again, what asshole doesn't think that their opinions deserve a blog?

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