Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Self’s Punishment
Gerhard Self series, No 1
Bernhard Schlink
Translation by Walter Popp

Vintage Crime / Black Lizard
April 12, 2005 / ISBN: 037570907X
/ PI / Germany / Contemporary

Reviewed by
L J Roberts

First Sentence: At the beginning, I envied him.

Gerhard self has been a Nazi prosecutor, and is now a private investigator. When a computer hacker creaks into the systems of a chemical plant, Self is hired to find the hacker. When the hacker dies in an accident, Self isn’t so certain the verdict of “accident” is correct and ventures down a road that takes him back to the past.

The first difference between this, and most PI novels, is having a protagonist who is 68 years old. However, his age is chronological only. Self can hold his own in a fight, and is quite the ladies’ man, though one of his closest relationships is with his cat, Turbo. Another difference is in the details of his daily life from shopping, preparing meals, going on holiday, going to an open-air concert and dancing; even a scene in a men’s bathroom.

The author’s style is compelling. The passage of time is shown as we move through the seasons and changes in weather with Self. There are wonderful descriptions of food and meals paired with wines. His subtle use of humor is effective and allows us to know the personality of the character…”No one apart from Frau Schlemihl addresses me as ‘Doctor’.

Since I stopped being a public prosecutor, I’ve not used my title. A private detective with a Ph.D. is ridiculous.”, and often focus on things with which one can empathize…”If there’s one thing I hate, it’s homemade cigarettes. They are way up there with crocheted modesty covers for toilet paper.” Living in the Bay Area, I personally enjoyed Self travelling to San Francisco only to find a connection to his own past and events which happened during the war.

Written in 1987, it shows how quickly technology has evolved to today from the late 80’s when it was still quite young. Interesting detail on air quality monitors. The technical and investigative information is offset by the inclusion of details as to his daily life. I enjoyed seeing a bit of his non-working time, cooking, going to an open-air concert, dancing, going on holiday in Greece…excellent transitions indicating the passage of time. Wonderful descriptions of food and meals paired with wines.

This was a very good book. I liked the writing and the details. It was not the strongest mystery but it had a shocking and completely unexpected ending about which I’m not certain how I feel, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I was never tempted to stop reading it and would definitely read another in the series.


Reviewed 2011
© 2011