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Dossier Feuerhand - The Firehand File - 2018

The Firehand Files is one of the five finalists of the 2018 Knack Hercule Poirot Prize


1921. Berlin is a city of extremes. Political violence plagues the streets during the day. A serial killer whom the media call "The Skinner" roams the streets at night. It is suspected that he is a rabid World War I veteran, but he remains untraceable.

In this human pressure cooker, the relationship between Paul Van Ostaijen and his impetuous girlfriend Emma Clément is on edge. Like hundreds of thousands of others in Berlin, they live in poverty and are addicted to cocaine and other drugs.

When Van Ostaijen, on a whim, steals the Feuerhands Obsession file in the apartment of the spy Elise Kraiser, the poet sets in motion a series of dramatic events that shed surprising light on a politician who is rapidly gaining influence: Herr Adolf Hitler.


Dead brother, through you, I continue my diary after eleven years.


Red will be the Jewish blood they shed.



(....)Hitler, by the way, is not the only historical character Van Laerhoven has acting in 'The Firehand File.' Albert Einstein, Rudolf Hess, Joseph Roth, and various other famous and infamous figures also pass in review in his book. The fantastic thing is that Van Laerhoven  gets away with it, which is clever since many other authors could have easily crossed the boundary of implausibility with it(...) Van Laerhoven has a refined writing style. His greatest strength is probably his talent to 'play' with the tension in his story. Even when the pressure drops a bit, Van Laerhoven keeps the attention. As a reader, you do not slacken off for a moment. With 'The Firehand File,' Van Laerhoven proves once again that he can measure up to the great writers.

(Hanneke Tinor Centi on Hebban: - Netherlands)

Bob Van Laerhoven (64) read up on this turbulent period for The Firehand File. He not only wrote a romanticized narrative about the life of the poet Paul Van Ostaijen in the German capital. Van Laerhoven also zooms in on a group of intellectuals who formed the Thule Society. The swastika was their symbol, and Jews and Communists were their enemies. Thus, this society was the forerunner of Hitler's NSDAP (....). Van Laerhoven mainly wants to describe life in 1921 in the melting pot of Berlin with Van Ostaijen as his guide. Especially in the first part, he does so compellingly(....)Dossier Feuerhand has intense passages, interesting characters, and dramatic developments.

(John Vervoort - De Standaard- Belgium)

You have to be Bob Van Laerhoven to find your way in those swirling postwar years and turn it into a masterful, exciting novel, in which not only Van Ostaijen but also Rudolf Hess, Bertolt Brecht, and Floris Jespers play a role. The book reads as psychotic as  Germany of the time, in which everyone seemed to be running wild. Whether it's about Einstein's new physics, the eugenics theories propagated by scientists, or Van Ostaijen's snuffed out genius, each character, historical or imagined, is given flesh and blood. Five Star praise for Van Laerhoven.

(Johanna Spaey - Knack Focus- Belgium)

With The Firehand File, Bob van Laerhoven did not write a crime novel in the real sense of the word, but it has become a novel noir(...) even blacker than black...What Van Laerhoven did with historical Paris in Baudelaire's Revenge, he does here just as credibly with Berlin (...) It's just as good as Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, which are the basis for the film Cabaret. And then, of course, there is the rise of National Socialism that degenerated into the mass slaughter of Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals, not to mention World War II. Eins Zwei, Eins Zwei, Eins Zwei...

(Walter Soethoudt - The Doubter - - Belgium)

The author has written a captivating yet complex story in which he subtly blends actual fact and fiction. It is noticeable that the author has done thorough research. With his fluent writing style and subtle use of language, he knows how to express an impression of Berlin in the twenties. The characters are clearly described. Besides Adolf Hitler, van Laerhoven also introduces other historical figures such as Rudolf Hess, Albert Einstein, Floris Jespers, and Bertold Brecht bold but believable among the fictional characters. For readers interested in the aftermath of World War I, this book is definitely recommended.

Mieke Wijnants reviews. - Netherlands

The German capital greedily seeks distraction. Narcotics, child prostitution, and vicious fights between communists and fascists are daily fare. Jewish residents are increasingly trapped. Although this book has thriller-like passages, it is still primarily an exciting historical novel in which the reader encounters many existing characters from the Berlin of 1921. The author has composed a clever intrigue around them. After a compelling build-up, the plot culminates in a credible outcome worthy of a compliment.

 Job ter Stege - Leeskost - - Netherlands

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