A good cop battles to stay that way as the Nazis surge and the German republic crumbles.
“I am Kripo to the core,” says Chief Inspector Harry Wulff. Kripo: the plainclothes branch of the Berlin Metropolitan Police in the years just before Hitler and his “shirts” dismantled it. Not only is Harry a good cop, he’s a good man: incorruptible, committed to his job, a loyal friend, and a steadfast lover, this last a major problem for him. The woman he adores is Joanna Davidov, Jewish (Harry is not) at a time when her people are being vilified without restraint. (Goebbels: “The Jews are a scourge on Germany’s lungs.”) Assigned to investigate the brutal murder of two transvestites, Harry is torn between the demands of that complex case and his concern for Joanna. Sensing mounting danger, he begs her to leave for safety in Switzerland, where she has friends. Though frightened—she sees what he sees—Joanna refuses to go without him, and it’s plain to both that for Harry to flee would translate to a desertion tantamount to self-betrayal. Suddenly, the case turns personal. A sickeningly accurate cutout doll, clearly meant to represent one of the victims, arrives in the mail, and Joanna, a psychoanalyst, reaches a disturbing conclusion. In a weird and convoluted way, she says, the killer has established Harry as a stand-in for the father he hates. What worries Harry more, however, is that the killer has connected Joanna to him. And there are other connections, linking this psychopath to some who are entrenched in the Nazi power structure. Soon enough, the question becomes: If Harry and Joanna do decide to run, will there be time?
Veteran Dold (Samedi’s Knapsack, 2001, etc.) is better at settings than plotting, and his middles have been known to sag. His endings, though, tend to perk things up. This one sizzles.