Monday, 20 April 2015

Self's Murder by Bernhard Schlink

You may remember Bernhard Schlink as the German author of The Reader - that wonderful novel about a teenage boy in post war Germany who has an affair with a woman whom he rediscovers as a law student when she is being tried for war crimes. It was made into a seriously good film starring Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet.

Before all that, Schlink wrote some fairly decent detective fiction featuring his Mannheim private eye Gerhard Self. The last of the series, Self’s Murder, has his protagonist contemplating retirement when he takes on a final case for a banker named Welker. Recently Welker's wife disappeared in the mountains while the couple were on a walking holiday, either the victim of a tragic accident or of foul play.

But oddly enough this isn’t case at hand. Welker wants Self to discover the identity of a silent partner in the bank’s history, before the rise of the Nazi Party. Self has a few awkward run-ins with Welker’s chauffeur and general factotum, Gregor Samarin, and then discovers he is being followed by ex-Stasi officer, Karl-Heinz Ulrich, who insists he is Self’s son.

There’s extortion, murder and several mad-cap episodes as the story builds towards an interesting twist. Schlink’s characters are all degrees of quirky giving the novel a lightness of touch, while Self is an urbane, philosophical sort of chap and as such makes a wonderful narrator. For a distinctly different kind of mystery, the Self books are well worth a look.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Self's Murder

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