The Tenth Witness

The Permanent Press  2013

 

In his award-winning first novel, All Cry Chaos, Leonard Rosen introduced Henri Poincaré, a married, middle-aged Interpol officer with grown children. The Tenth Witness is a prequel. Henri is a young, successful engineer. On a rare free day, he goes on a guided walk across the mud flats of the Wadden Sea, north of the Netherlands. That adventure will change his life in ways he could never imagine.

The mud flats tour guide is Liesel Kraus, an enchanting German woman who draws Henri into her family of wealthy steel magnates. Kraus Steel no longer produces the metal alloy, but engages in salvage operations such as the stripping of metal from beached oil tankers, doing business in third world countries, utilizing cheap labor, and treating their workers as little more than slaves. Henri becomes aware of the questionable nature of these ventures early on, but as his feelings for Liesel grow and the opportunities to line his own pockets increase, he manages to put his concerns aside. He even accepts a job overseeing a Kraus research project.

It is on his first day as a consultant to Kraus Steel that Henri reads a biography of the now deceased family patriarch, Otto Kraus. It includes an affidavit signed by ten witnesses, who confirm that Otto, who had been a member of the Nazi party, was not a war criminal, but actually “a good and honorable man, caught up in evil times.” Henri is shocked when he reads the name of the last witness, Jacob Zeligman, a Holocaust survivor who had attended the recent funeral of Isaac Kahane, a family friend who had been like a grandfather to Henri. He finds himself compelled to look into the wartime history of the Kraus steel factory and the veracity of the aforementioned affidavit.

Henri’s activities now bring him to the attention of Interpol officer Serge Laurent, who is investigating Kraus Steel and views Henri as a potential informant. Torn between Liesel, the Interpol case against her family, and their connection to the wartime horrors experienced by his beloved Isaac Kahane, Henri ends up placing both his life and perhaps his very soul in great danger.

Leonard Rosen is a gifted writer and The Tenth Witness is just as deserving of awards as was All Cry Chaos. I would recommend that you read them both.

Discussion Questions

Courtesy of Leonard Rosen

  1. Of what, if anything, is Liesel Kraus guilty? She didn't choose her parents, after all.

  2. What compels Henri Poincaré to investigate the Kraus family? Why can't he leave well-enough alone?

  3. When Poincaré recoils at the touch of the gypsy, he sees something in himself that he abhors. What does he see—and does he see it anywhere, or in anyone, else?

  4. Poincaré gives up a promising career as a mechanical engineer. Why? Why does he accept Serge Laurent's invitation to quit what he knows and become an Interpol agent?

  5. What does Poincaré learn from Isaac Kahane?

  6. Anselm Kraus grew up during the years his father was director at the Drütte concentration camp. What did Anselm learn there, and how does he put that knowledge to use in his current business?

  7. The epigraph of the book comes from Elie Wiesel's Open Heart: "I still believe in man in spite of man." What might this mean in relation to The Tenth Witness?

  8. Len Rosen grew up in Baltimore in 1960s. In this blog post that he wrote, "The Burden of Silence", he discusses seldom hearing of the Holocaust as a child. This, he says, created a powerful motivation to write. What experiences did you have as a child on learning about the war and related events in Europe? How has this affected you subsequently?

  9. Did you want the relationship between Poincaré and Liesel to work out? Why didn't it—why couldn't it—succeed?

  10. One critic wrote of Poincaré, in Rosen's debut All Cry Chaos: "It’s a rare pleasure to find a protagonist who reads like a literary figure in a thriller.” To what extent do you find Rosen continuing to blend genres in The Tenth Witness? That is, to what extent do you find his writing to share qualities of both literary fiction and mysteries/thrillers?


  11. Read Leonard Rosen's Post for the Visiting Scribe

    The Burden of Silence



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