A chance encounter in 1993 brings aging investigator Gerhard Self (Self’s Deception, 2007, etc.) one last case with enough twists and turns for a whole career.
Bertram Welker’s history of Weller & Welker, his family’s private bank, won’t be complete without an account of the silent partner who pumped an undisclosed amount of cash into the firm a century ago. Since Welker’s never identified this savior, he wants Self, the man who pushed his car out of a snowy ditch, to find out who he was. The logical person to help Self is retired schoolteacher Adolf Schuler, the bank archivist whom Welker and his go-to guy Gregor Samarin somehow forgot to mention. But although Schuler can’t identify the silent partner, he presents Self with something else—an attaché case filled with banknotes—moments before he drives his car into a tree. Clearly there’s more going on at Weller & Welker than a search into the family archives: a criminal conspiracy that involves fraud, deception, money laundering, kidnapping, murder and a descent into Third Reich history that becomes a lot more personal than is comfortable for Self, whose career as a public prosecutor ended ignominiously. His uneasy feeling about the case is complicated further when ex-Stasi officer Karl-Heinz Ulbrich turns up on his doorstep insisting that he is Self’s son.
Schlink (Homecoming, 2008, etc.) constructs a series of Chinese boxes whose increasingly untidy carpentry—the case ends with the appealingly reflective hero far more bewildered than he began—is exactly his point.