Review - SELF'S PUNISHMENT, Bernhard Schlink
From the blurb, you can probably work out that this isn't a noir styled book. A lot of the attraction comes from the eccentricity of both Gerhard Self, and the style of storytelling, which is often slightly arch and funny.
Which is rather unexpected given that Self is a widowed private detective, and ex-Nazi prosecutor. He is also the brother-in-law of the man who runs a major chemical company, part of the reason he's called in to help when the company falls victim to a computer hacker with his own sense of the bizarre. A clash of troublemakers if you like.
The investigation into hacking sort of wanders through a series of intricate, inward looking musings about Self's own life, and the society in which he lives. It's hard not to love a man who dreams up different ways of decorating his Christmas tree every year, even if it means he, and his cat Turbo exist on a diet of sardines for sufficient time to build up the number of empty tins required for this year's effort. It's also hard not to love a man who is both self-aware and blissfully ignorant of his affect on others, whilst also being incredibly insightful and as thick as a brick.
The blurb is a little misleading in that the charismatic Turbo didn't seem to get much of a chance to weave his magic though, and one gets the distinct impression that Self confronting his own demons is something he's spent a lifetime doing.
Unusually styled, and not at all what this reader expected, there's a subtle sense of humour, and some pointed observational elements to SELF'S PUNISHMENT. Using an elegant comparison between the eccentric and slightly chaotic Self, and an investigation with similar traits this won't be a book for fans of starting at the beginning and proceeding in an orderly fashion. There's a lot of byways and side alleys being explored here, which soon get to the Company's activities during the war, and some questionable behaviour on the part of a lot of people. There's also some sub-threads that meander around in the way of Self, seemingly having not a lot to do with anything much, although, to be honest, a fair amount of the plot in this book seems to rely on a somewhat touristy trail. I suspect that's part of the point, Self isn't solving just crime, he's having a good look at the past and its effects on the present. Which is one of this reader's favourite viewpoints.
Sixty-eight years old; a smoker of Sweet Aftons, a dedicated drinker of Aviateur cocktails, and the owner of a charismatic cat named Turbo, Gerhard Self is an unconventional private detective. several incidents of computer-hacking at a chemicals company, he finds himself dealing with an unfamiliar kind of crime that throws up many challenges. But in his search for the hacker, Self stumbles upon something far more sinister. His investigation eventually unearths dark secrets that have been hidden for decades, and forces Self to confront his own demons.