Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Schlink, Bernhard & Popp, Walter: Self's Punishment

Self is a former Nazi prosecutor who became disillusioned with his work, resigned and, after the end of World War II, chose not to return to this profession but became a private investigator instead. He is asked by his brother-in-law, who is now the head of a major chemical firm, to find out who has been tampering with the company's computer system. So far this has been an annoyance rather than causing any real problems. He does this, finds the culprit who is romantically involved with one of the secretaries who has caught Self's eye as well, and makes his report. A few weeks later the culprit is killed in what seems a straight-forward road accident but his girlfriend is not convinced and the bulk of the novel deals with Self's efforts to find out what happened and why. Self is no longer young but seems to have a way with women and his character is well-drawn. The actual story is anything but contrived though there are the almost inevitable co-incidences, the main one being a link to one of his wartime cases at the same chemical plant; this does allow him to work out who was responsible and why by the end of the book. Set in and around Mannheim with excursions to San Francisco and the Italian Lakes, the book portrays a likeable and eccentric detective who enjoys the company of women. The book was published in Germany in 1987 with theEnglish translation dating from 2004. If there are more, it is worth seeking them out.

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