Peter Steiner’s The Good Cop is a pitch-perfect aria in the chaotic opera that was Weimar. It illustrates the corruption of the politicians and police, the violence of the extremist freikorps ruffians, and the general fear and loathing that led to Hitler.
In recent years, Steiner has burnished his reputation as author of the Louis Morgon whodunits, set around a former U.S. CIA agent who moved to rural France after he was cashiered for political reasons. I’m glad to see him branch off into the new Willi Geismeier Mysteries series, which is filled with potential.
The story opens in the trenches of the Western Front as World War I ends and the defeated and depressed German soldiers are sent home, where they will face still more defeat and depression. If you’ve read much of the history of the Weimar Republic you will be familiar with its chaos, including the political assassinations, the corruption, the fear, and the ever-present poverty. All of that is fully represented in Steiner’s book, whose only fault in my eyes is that it is too short.
The new government is weak and useless; leaders change; police and courts are corrupt (nothing like the Third Reich, but corrupt nevertheless). Fascists and Communists alike think they should rule the country. The time is ripe for the Austrian corporal to attempt a putsch in a Munich beer hall.
But instead of winning the government, he gets jail. By then many of the police and other officials have come to believe he may be the wave of the future, so his sentence is shortened, from years to months, but it was still long enough to write Mein Kampf. And when he got out, he was already a legend. There was nowhere to go but up.
Five stars. Highly recommended. My only quibble is its length, 192 pages. I would happily have read another hundred.
Before Peter Steiner started writing novels he was a cartoonist for The New Yorker, well known for a large body of work but perhaps best for the 1993 cartoon showing one dog sitting at a desktop computer, paw on the keyboard, telling another, “On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog.” It’s a classic.
He also paints, and had a show in June in Connecticut. In October, he will have a show in the Cartoon Museum in Krems, Austria
The Good Cop (Willi Geismeier Mysteries), by Peter Steiner. Severn House Publishers, July 1, 2019. I read a PDF proof the publisher furnished, then bought and reviewed the Kindle edition.
Peter Steiner’s site
BBC Guide to Weimar