Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


THE TENTH WITNESS by Leonard Rosen: Book Review

Leonard Rosen is now two for two.  The Tenth Witness is a masterful follow-up to his debut novel, All Cry Chaos (reviewed on this blog).

The Tenth Witness, a prequel, opens with a prologue by the protagonist, Henri Poincare.  In All Cry Chaos he was a man approaching retirement, an inspector with Interpol.  In The Tenth Witness he is a young consulting engineer, a partner in the firm of Poincare & Chin, called in 1978 to oversee extracting gold from outdated computers for Kraus Steel, a global steel manufacturer.  The story is told in a single flashback.

Almost from his introduction to the Kraus family, Henri experiences split emotions.  He is immediately attracted to Liesel Kraus, who handles the publicity and charitable giving for the business’ foundation.  And he likes her brother Anselm and Anselm’s wife and young children.  But he is disturbed, unnerved, by meeting the original co-partner in Kraus Steel and now Anselm’s father-in-law, Viktor Schmidt.  Henri doesn’t know quite why, at least not yet.

Liesel Kraus makes no secret of how the family got started during the Hitler era.  Her father was a member of the Nazi party and ran his steel mills with slave labor.  But like Oskar Schindler, Liesel tells Henri, he saved people’s lives.  And when the war trials began, ten Kraus Steel laborers came forward and signed an affidavit in her father’s favor.  But still, she admits, “My father wore a swastika lapel pin.”

Henri travels with Viktor to see a facility the company owns in Hong Kong.  Viktor explains that when the ship is broken apart, every section of it is remade by the steel mill–pipes, wires, furniture–and reused.  The profits are enormous.  But what Henri sees are the incredibly dangerous conditions, conditions that never would be allowed in Europe.  He leaves Hong Kong with the thought that he doesn’t want to do business with the Kraus company, regardless of the profits that his engineering firm would make.  But when he sees Liesel again he changes his mind, and he accepts the commission.  And so Henri becomes involves with the Kraus family, their business and their secrets.

Just in case the readers are thinking that the Nazis were a special group of vermin, that other people didn’t do those things/have those kind of thoughts, Leonard Rosen sets them straight.  There are two scenes in the book that are so realistic, taking place more than two decades after the war, as to be unbearably painful.

In the first, after Henri has basically uncovered most of the dirty history of the Kraus Steel company, he and Liesel are outside a church when confronted by a Gypsy woman and her child who are begging for coins.  Liesel gives the child a coin, but Henri brushes past the woman and child.  He thinks to himself, A whole (expletive deleted) of cows.  He washes the sleeve where the Gypsy touched him, and then he understands what he was thinking.

I’ll leave the second scene, equally disturbing, for you to discover.

No such thing as a sophomore slump when it comes to Leonard Rosen’s second novel.  The writing is outstanding, clear and crisp, and the author holds your attention from the first page to the last.  The characters are real, and the decisions they make about life and business are real also.  Do not miss reading The Tenth Witness.

You can read more about Leonard Rosen at his web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at this web site.

Leave a Reply