Jonathan Rabb
Historical Novelist

Jonathan Rabb is best known for his Berlin Trilogy (Rosa, Shadow and Light, and The Second Son) the critically acclaimed series of historical thrillers set in Berlin and Barcelona between the World Wars, from 1919 to 1937. In 2006, Rabb won the international Dashiell Hammett prize at the Spanish Semana Negra Festival for Rosa, the first novel of his trilogy, about the mystery surrounding the murder of Socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg.  He is also the author of The Overseer and The Book of Q.


The son and grandson of historians on both sides—his father is Princeton University professor of Renaissance and Reformation history, Theodore K. Rabb—Jonathan Rabb was initially convinced that his future would lie in academia. In 1992, Rabb was in Germany as a Fulbright scholar, researching 17th-century theorist Samuel von Pufendorf, when he was inspired to write a thriller about a young professor who becomes entangled in the conspiracy surrounding a centuries-old manuscript—an even more extreme response to Machiavelli’s The Prince—that has been adopted by a modern-day right-wing terrorist group. Abandoning academia to concentrate on writing, Rabb had his first novel, The Overseer, published in 1998.


Jonathan Rabb has taught creative writing at New York University and the 92nd Street Y, and was a performer and former board member of the Blue Hill Troupe, a New York Gilbert and Sullivan company. He has also contributed essays, articles and reviews to Opera News, American Biography and the collection I Wish I’d Been There. Rabb graduated cum laude from Yale University and received a Masters degree in political theory from Columbia University. After many years of life in New York City, Rabb and his wife, a casting director, now live in Savannah, Georgia with their twin children.

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A Novel

November 1918. A socialist revolution is sweeping across Germany, wreaking havoc on war-torn Berlin. Amid the ruin of the city's slums, four women are found...

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On the eve of Hitler’s Olympics, Chief Inspector Nikolai Hoffner, a half-Jew, has been forced out of the Kriminalpolizei. Yet his career is the least of his...

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Rabb’s sinister and seductive evocation of Weimer Republic Berlin serves as the backdrop for this superb literary crime novel.

Storytelling in History
Jonathan Rabb draws from his remarkable historical fiction to explain how time and place become characters in literature, how fiction returns forgotten ordinary characters to the greater narratives of history, and what we can do to train ourselves as storytellers while bombarded by texts, tweets, sound bites, and other truncated and over-simplified forms of communication.

Praise for Rosa "Tantalizing . . . memorable . . . a tour de force."
The New York Times Book Review

"Wonderfully evocative . . . this novel transcends the mystery genre by offering readers a glimpse into the economic and political chaos in Berlin after the war and then transcends politics by giving a pulsatingly detailed account of individual life at a particular moment in history."
Booklist (starred review)

"Rabb artfully delineates the city as it emerges from war, defeat, and revolution into the shadow of a nascent state of terror."
The Boston Globe

"So richly drawn, so dark, and so compelling."
Detroit Free Press