There is a lot of buzz right now about German author Bernhard Schlink. The 64-year-old Schlink, who is also a lawyer and law professor, wrote The Reader, which was subsequently turned into a movie starring Kate Winslet. Winslet is racking up praise for her performance in the movie, winning a Golden Globe and receiving an Oscar nomination.
Two mysteries by Mr. Schlink that I've read and recommend are Self's Punishment (Book 1) and Self's Deception (Book 2). These books feature Gerhard Self, a private detective. Self was a Nazi prosecutor during World War II, a grievous course of conduct that the older Self continues to struggle with. In these stories, Self is now in his late 60s, a widower who cohabits an apartment with a cat. Self drinks, smokes, flirts, fends off loneliness and solves interesting mysteries.
In Self's Punishment, the mystery begins with Self being hired to figure out who is is hacking into a Rhineland chemical plant's computer system, an investigation that leads to a murder. Self digs further and uncovers corporate crimes. In Self's Deception, Self is hired to find the missing daughter of a German bureaucrat. The missing woman turns out to have been involved in terrorist activities, activities that the government is trying to cover-up.
Both Self's Punishment and Self's Deception are entertaining and well-written mysteries. One interesting theme is that of living with the knowledge of one's complicity with wrongful actions within society, a topic that should come as no surprise given who Self is drawn-up to be, and the books' setting in Germany at a time when a significant number of the World War II generation was still alive and active. It is interesting to think about how people act when institutions go bad. The Catholic Church's sex scandals are one contemporary example of this type of crisis. Another that, while not at the level of moral disaster that was Nazi Germany during World War II, is in the news again is the steroid scandal the continues to infect Major League Baseball, including most recently Alex Rodriguez.
A third book in this series, Self's Murder, will be released in English sometime in 2009.
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