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The Warsaw Anagrams (from The Independent)
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Michael Eaude
The Independent (London)

The Warsaw Anagrams is a highly realist murder mystery. As in The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, Zimler's 1998 bestseller, the narrator sets out in the midst of massacre to solve one killing. Surprisingly perhaps, Zimler's book has an optimistic feel. If you look squarely at brutality and find that even in the harshest situations people are capable of kindness and loyalty, then optimism can sprout. As in all Zimler's fiction, there are bad and good Jews and non-Jews, people with mixed motives - including non-Jewish Poles who die because they protect Jews. His style too assists optimism. It is clear, direct, full of ordinary pleasures: the joy of children singing or the sun peeking through storm clouds. This straightforward style is not sentimental or simple, but laced with subtle psychology. The narrator, Erik Cohen, succeeds in telling his story. The dead are remembered.
The Warsaw Anagrams is both a fast-moving, very readable mystery novel and a rich, serious book, in which Zimler makes us face the worst and pays tribute to those who died in the Holocaust.