Damien Seaman- The Killing of Emma Gross

A prostitute is found dead in a cheap hotel room, brutally murdered. But her death is soon forgotten as the city’s police hunt a maniac attacking innocent women and children. A killer the press has dubbed the Düsseldorf Ripper. Detective Thomas Klein’s career is going nowhere until he gets a tip off leading to the Ripper’s arrest. But the killer’s confession to the hooker’s murder is full of holes, and Klein soon comes to believe this is one murder the killer didn’t commit. Motivated by spite, ambition, or maybe even a long-buried sense of justice, finding out who really killed Emma Gross becomes Klein’s obsession. Particularly when the evidence begins to point closer to home…

Having now made the successful and totally deserved leap from e-book to paperback publication, I couldn’t resist revisiting my review for this exceptional debut novel from Damien Seaman. Having heard the author talk about The Killing of Emma Gross at last year’s CrimeFest,  I was very intrigued by the premise of the story which is a historical re-imagining of the infamous serial killer Peter Kurten aka ‘The Vampire of Dusseldorf’ set in the 1920‘s and hastily downloaded it. It did not disappoint, and if you like the winning combination of historical fact vividly brought to life with an accomplished and gripping use of fiction in terms of plot and characterisation you’re onto a winner here.

I was thoroughly gripped from start to finish and found Seaman’s recreation of this period utterly real and with close adherence to original source materials (with only a little tinkering) enforcing the realism of the story and making it even more affecting. Seaman conjures up the locale and atmosphere of Weimar Germany with a deft touch, so that the sights and sounds of this period are perfectly evoked and his description of the murder victims and scenes of crime are tangible and powerful. His main protagonist, detective Thomas Klein, is a wonderfully drawn character possessing a single-minded determination to not only capture the infamous Kurten but to properly establish the truth behind the killing of the prostitute Emma Gross which Klein realises is analogous to the other murders taking place- being similar but dissimilar in certain regards. Klein is imbued with a dark and pithy sense of humour reminiscent of the quick fire hard-boiled style of McBain and Chandler and the whole atmosphere of the book reminded me of the black and white unlit atmosphere of films such as ‘The Third Man. As a prolific crime reader this was certainly an impressive debut that I would thoroughly recommend to other readers who enjoy crime based on true life cases whether you choose the e-book or tree book option!

A former journalist, editor, parliamentary assistant, financial analyst, factory worker and security guard, Damien has dabbled in petty smuggling, baboon-whispering, scuba diving and sunbathing, with varying levels of success.
He has lived in Belgium, Germany and Libya, spent probably more time than was healthy visiting Kuwait, and currently resides in the county of Shakespeare’s birth. He also has a fear of camels, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. His short crime fiction, interviews and reviews have appeared on many crime ezines and websites, and he has been published in the New York Times. http://blastedheath.com/damien-seaman/ Follow on Twitter @Damienseaman


  1. Now there, you see, you learn something every day. I’d heard good things about this but I didn’t know that this novel was a fictional re-creation of an actual case. Don’t know how I missed that, but I find that aspect of it interesting. Definitely one I should read.

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