Garden of Beasts: A Novel of Berlin 1936 by Jeffery Deaver

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Garden of BeastsThis is one terrific read. Deaver has taken the reader and placed him right back into the 1930s with a fellow named Adolf Hitler building up his empire in Germany. Actually the story is about a German American living in New York at the time and working as a mobster hitman.

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The man, Paul Schumann, is somewhat strange in that he doesn’t kill for the sake of killing but actually does it to rid the world of people who are doing no good. In other words he kills killers or other gangster type individuals who are not good for the rest of mankind.

Schumann is captured by the federal government as he was planning a “touch off” of a criminal. However when they take Schumann into custody they give him a choice. He can either go to prison for what would probably turn out to be a lifetime or he can accept an assignment from the government in exchange for his freedom.

Schumann thinks maybe they want him to get Bugsy Siegel or some of the other top named gangsters of the time. However “Bull” Gordon of Naval Intelligence explains that he wants him to return to his native country of Germany and do his work for the United States government.

They want him to “touch off” one of Hitler’s top aides, a gentleman by the name of Reinhard Ernst who once was a colonel in the German army but now works as a civilian. His job is rearmament of the German army. Hitler is not the type of individual who can plot out and mastermind such an undertaking but the United States has found out that Ernst is very methodical and instrumental in building the Third Reich into the military force that Hitler and his associates want.

Gordon knows not only of Schumann’s fantastic skills but that he is still very fluent in German and is not only a skilled prize fighter but also has a journalistic background.

The idea is to sneak Schumann into German at the time of the Olympics as a sportswriter tuned to prize fighting and help him to get set up for a “touching off” of Ernst on German soil. They have the skills and manpower to get him in and set up very well under cover. Knowing his ability with all sorts of weapons they intend for him to scope out Ernst’s work patterns and decide when and where he will assassinate him.

This all sounds well and good and seems like it would be an easy job for anyone with Schumann’s skills and backgrounds. But as he and Gordon find out there is much more going on than they anticipated.

It seems with all of the countries at the early stages of another possible World War there are spies everywhere and they are sensing and smelling out all possible happenings long before they occur.

After arriving in Germany Schumann is pretty quickly found out or at least it appears he is found out. Turns out that in fact those who figured out about this guy coming into the Olympic area didn’t really get it all figured out quite right. Somehow they believe him to be a Russian who is also planning some sort of dirty deed of which they know little.

Schumann however is very shrewd and is able to continue in his efforts to do his job by blending in with many of the Germans who are not really sold on Hitler and his antics. Schumann actually gets fairly deeply involved with a woman who has lost her main man some time back to the other side and she now thinks she just wants to fade into the background.

As time passes, she and Schumann get very friendly and Schumann also becomes friends with some of his co-conspirators. However as in any good story there are many ups and downs and in this case even changes in nationalities of folks who are in Germany for various reasons.

The final chapters of the book carry the reader through some exciting and involved happenings by not only Schumann and Ernst but others on both sides of the conflict. Deaver has really done a fantastic job of putting together some interesting pieces of action that keep the reader turning pages to see what happens next.

A really great read by a great author!!

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