Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Good German by Joseph Kanon

Set against the backdrop of the Potsdam Conference at Schloss Cecelienhof, The Good German is a spy thriller, mystery, and a love story all at the same time. The characters are intricately drawn and the city of Berlin described in a way that you can see the horror left as the aftermath of war. The book commences as Jake Geismar arrives in Berlin to cover the conference. There is an ulterior motive - to find Lena, his former lover. In Potsdam he witnesses a body being washed ashore - an American soldier and from that point he is on a mission to find out the murderer. The investigation leads him to Professor Brandt, Lena's father-in-law and ultimately to Emil, Lena's husband, a scientist who is working with Werner von Braun building rockets.
The book was a bit slow to start, but once you figured out the characters and their inter-relationships, it became a page-turner. There are some thrilling chase scenes, some very heated romantic scenes, and a bit of comedy at times. The depiction of the rally after VJ day with Patton, Truman and Churchhill puts the reader in the midst of Berlin where there is distrust among the allies. One comes away with the realization that there were choices men and women had to make that were not easy and fraught with moral dilemmas and the question that begs to be answered - who were or was the "good German."

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