Ex-Nazi prosecutor Gerhard Self (Self’s Punishment, 2005), still working as a private eye in a reunified Germany, gets a case that involves somebody else’s political guilt, or lack thereof.
Undersecretary Salger’s daughter has gone missing from the Heidelberg Institute for Translation and Interpretation, where, like a good European, she’d been studying French and English. Although the minister’s manners are brusque to the point of rudeness, Self likes the look of Leonore Salger’s photo and the sound of her father’s banknotes. So he makes some routine inquiries and discovers from Dr. Rolf Wendt that Leo had been a patient at the State Psychiatric Hospital until she fell out a fourth-story window last week. The story of her death rings so patently untrue—no relatives have been notified, there’s been no inquiry into the details of the accident, nobody else in the hospital knows that it even happened—that Self keeps digging, and all too soon realizes he’s dug entirely too far. Leo isn’t dead but in hiding; she’s on the run from state officials who want to interview her about a terrorist attack on an American military installation in the Lampertheim National Forest; the government is less interested in exposing the consequences of the attack than in covering them up; and it looks as if Self’s client isn’t really Leo’s father or an undersecretary of anything.
Antic, laconic, melancholy and oddly extroverted—a tonic corrective for two generations of German self-scrutiny.