Some Murders in Berlin: a novel

Image of Some Murders in Berlin: A WWII Historical Fiction Novel
Release Date: 
June 25, 2024
Reviewed by: 

“Some Murders in Berlin blends historic forensics and international intrigue in ways that should guarantee it a place on the thriller and investigations shelf.”

This World War II thriller from Karen Robards becomes a police procedural, an espionage novel, and a deftly paced historical romance, as Dr. Elin Lund brings the new science of behavioral forensics to a set of serial murders in the bombed and frightening German city of Berlin.

In a very clever twist away from novels set in German-occupied Denmark, Robards positions Elin as a professional without a choice, leaving her small son Niles behind amid the dangers of Copenhagen when she’d summoned to assist Nazi officials. She’s able to leave her son with her ex-mother-in-law, but he’ll only be safe as long as nobody realizes the half Jewish status of the child.

Pulled from her office at the University of Copenhagen, she only knows she is to assist in investigating “some murders in Berlin.” Impulsively, she has taken advantage of her reputation as an author, crime solver, and “Dr. Murder” to bring along with her two colleagues, Pia and Jens, already at risk of Nazi capture in their homeland. So now, really, she’s got the lives of three people holding her hostage as she tackles this case by shielded flashlight amid dark streets of rubble and threat.

Thank goodness Detective Karl Schneider has read her two books and believes she’ll be useful. His doubts about her imported colleagues are quickly set aside as Elin demonstrates how useful they can be in new forms of insight and analysis—like discovering that the murderer’s body fluids contain Pervitin, the methamphetamine used by German Army soldiers (all the way up to commanders) to keep them going without rest or food—and, as Elin is aware, “It also made them incalculably cruel. The kind of cruel that might result in the vicious killings of innocent young women.”

With her wide-ranging experience in more than 50 earlier novels, Robards skillfully lays out the elements of crime and both psychological and laboratory exploration. Equally impressive is her portrayal of the mix of brutality and better motives among the Nazis where Elin is navigating.

Experienced romance readers will cue in quickly to Elin’s perception of her potentially dangerous German colleague, Detective Scheider, as she begins to see his face as having “strong features that spoke of steadiness of character” and his long-term friendships that soften his expression with “the reminiscent smile that just touched his mouth.” So the suspense of the murderer, the crime solving, the hidden Jewish alliances, and her threatened colleagues is accompanied by another question: Can there ever be an emotional bond between Elin and Karl, separated on two sides of a dangerous and brutal military occupation?

Elin’s desperate to solve the case: “If the man they sought had been found—and how she hoped, no, prayed, that it was so—she wanted to be able to close out her part of the case as quickly as possible so she could get home to Niles.” Because the threats against her child seem to multiply, even as she cuts toward a solution. And no matter how the case resolves, can she save Pia and Jens, and the part of her that’s becoming entangled with a German detective?

Some Murders in Berlin blends historic forensics and international intrigue in ways that should guarantee it a place on the thriller and investigations shelf. Robards has turned out a gem in this new stand-alone suspenseful mystery.