A German detective tries to fight for justice in an unjust society

“A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” — John F. Kennedy

What happens when the world flips upside down and morals are thrown out the window? In post-World War I Germany, one detective finds himself faced with trying to solve a case in a strange new Germany that no longer cares about justice. Our latest read dives into the moral dilemmas of a detective trying to bring justice to those society has forgotten.

The Good Cop by Peter Steiner

After the first World War, Germany was in shambles, the economy was struggling and the government was buried under the reparations called for in the Treaty of Versailles. It was during this period when a young orator by the name of Adolf Hitler (yeah, that Hitler) took advantage of the fragmented government and public discontent to cultivate what later became the Third Reich. Peter Steiner’s novel is not directly about Hitler’s rise, but rather a cop, who just wants to correctly close a case about a bombing at a Munich newspaper. In the story which unfolds in the wake of World War I, readers are introduced to a former soldier and artist who lands a job at a newspaper, creating cartoons of life in Munich. After his boss is killed and a friendly coworker is injured in a bombing at the newspaper, a detective (the titular good cop) begins to investigate the attack on the publication, which was critical of Hitler and his Nazis. As the investigation unfurls, the detective spends decades of his life trying to do his job and close the case.

Steiner, who is also a cartoonist, highlights the importance of media in the story as the novel hops from the perspectives of numerous characters, including a handful of Nazis, as he conveys this story about what happens to justice when the villains gain control.

From the book jacket…

“Munich, 1920. Detective Willi Geismeier has a problem: how do you uphold the law when the law goes bad? The First World War has been lost and Germany is in turmoil. The new government in Berlin is weak. The police and courts are corrupt. Fascists and Communists are fighting in the streets. People want a savior, someone who can make Germany great again. To many, Adolf Hitler seems perfect for the job.”

If you enjoy…

Readers who enjoyed falling into the different narratives of post-World War I Munich might also enjoy reading Linwood Barclay’s thriller “Elevator Pitch.” The novel is told from several points of view as the characters try to determine who is terrorizing New York City by causing the elevators to crash.

Note: Peter Steiner will be offering a free talk about his book at the Ridgefield Library on Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. To attend the talk, register online at ridgefieldlibrary.org.