In decadent 1920s Germany, a dutiful but haunted detective unravels a pair of bizarre murders as his personal life crumbles around him.
In 1960, as he lies dying ignominiously of lung cancer in New York with a priest standing nearby, Eberhard Mock confesses the story in a flashback to his friend Herbert Anwaldt. On a November Monday in 1927, Criminal Councilor Mock is summoned to a tenement in Breslau, where a shoemaker named Rohmig works. Having knocked down a wall to find the source of a noxious smell, Rohmig has found a corpse, bound and gagged and with a calendar page pinned to his waistcoat. A card found on the body conveniently identifies him as musician Emil Gelfert, 50, and even includes his address. Another victim, unemployed locksmith Berthold Honnefelder, is found butchered in the Tenderloin, in his pocket is a small calendar with a particular date circled. Trapped in a loveless marriage and beset by personal demons, Mock nevertheless probes the case doggedly over the objections of his superiors, following his instinct that the calendar pages are the key to the killer's motive. While his wife, Sophie, carouses with her intimate friend Elisabeth and a debauched baron, Mock acts so recklessly that he nearly bungles his investigation. He drinks heavily; assaults both suspects and Sophie; even assigns detectives to follow her in her escapades.
In the second of Mock's five adventures translated into English (Death in Breslau, 2012, etc.), darkly atmospheric writing and complex characters draw the reader into a vividly depicted era of modern history.