In a first thriller, the Italian writer Fabiano Massimi had tackled the suspicious death of Geli Reubal, the niece (and mistress) of Adolph Hitler. This time, in The Demons of Berlin, he tackles a major event in the history of the 20th century, the fire at the Reichstag Palace, the German parliament, in Berlin on February 27, 1933.

It follows the same recipe, a clever mix of historical fact and fiction, an interaction between sinister figures like Himmler, Heydrich and Goering and fictional characters like Siegfried Sauer and Helmut Forster, encountered in Fabiano Massimi’s first novel, The Angel of Berlin. The backdrop is the same: the rise of Nazism in Germany.

Siegfried Sauer, a former police commissioner, tries to find the beautiful Rosa, who disappeared in Berlin after joining a resistance movement. During this quest, he discovers that the Nazis are preparing attacks with the aim of destabilizing the republic and thus justifying a new wave of repression.

In fact, historians do not agree on the identity of those responsible for the Reichstag fire: a simple visionary? Communists? The Nazis themselves? Fabiano Massimi embroiders his own vision of history in a story where paranoia reigns. Its hero, Siegfried Sauer, can’t trust anyone, not even his old friends. Anyone can hide Nazi sympathies.

The story knows no dead time, the reversals of situation follow each other at an accelerated pace, the characters do not lack brilliance.

It is once again an opportunity to delve into a tragic period of history and to realize, in the words of the author in an endnote to the novel, “that even today it would be enough to very little to go from the most evolved democracy to a totalitarian nightmare: an incident, a pretext, a small distraction”.