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The Good German

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  5,982 ratings  ·  593 reviews
With World War II finally ending, Jake Geismar, former Berlin correspondent for CBS, has wangled one of the coveted press slots for the Potsdam Conference. His assignment: a series of articles on the Allied occupation. His personal agenda: to find Lena, the German mistress he left behind at the outbreak of the war.

When Jake stumbles on a murder -- an American soldier was

Paperback, 482 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Picador (first published September 30th 2001)
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Elliot J. There a few instances of the f & s words used in appropriate circumstances by the characters. Nothing gratuitous.
Elliot J. I've now finished 7 of Kanon's 9 love ls and I've never come across carry-over characters or plot lines.…moreI've now finished 7 of Kanon's 9 love ls and I've never come across carry-over characters or plot lines.(less)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Aug 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
All I want to say is PLEASE read this book before you see the movie. In fact, don't watch the movie after you read it as well. If you enjoy WWII fiction that reads like fiction, then you will love this book. But the movie (like most movies based on a book) is HORRIBLE. I couldn't put this book down! ...more
Friederike Knabe
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kanon's The Good German starts slowly, designed to immerse the reader in the atmosphere of the Berlin of the early post-war months. It is July 1945, the time of the Potsdam Conference. Kanon' s ability to take you virtually by the hand and to lead you through the place is exemplary: ruins, bombed out houses, roads blocked by rubble, empty spaces where, before, Berliners had lived - and where the protagonist himself had lived as a journalist. Jake Geismar, supposedly reporting on the Conference, ...more
Took a while to get into but thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of post war Berlin. Quite a few subplots running throughout the novel and they were not all completely addressed to my mind. However I did feel that the "moral" dilemma of the time was well addressed. An interesting novel, thought provoking and well worth the read. ...more
Lewis Weinstein
The Good German is a thrilling historical mystery, with a gripping underlying psychological exploration. Kanon presents the struggle for German rocket scientists, Americans versus Russians, with both sides desperate to enhance their own post-war technology and neither concerned about the Nazi past and practices of the men they are seeking. It is hard to find the moral high ground.

The main characters are well-presented and well-developed over the course of the novel. Secondary characters are plen
Joy D
Set in Berlin at the time of the Potsdam Conference, just after the Allied victory in Europe, Jake Geismar, an American journalist, is searching for his German girlfriend, Lena, along with a story for his magazine. While there, a murder is committed, and Jake gets involved. At first, the murder and the search for Lena do not seem connected, but with the help of German detective, the relationship becomes clear. He also wants to find out what happened to Lena’s husband, Emil, a scientist working w ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
I kept reading for so long wanting to like this book. There are two main problems, though. The first is that there's way too much dialogue. Everyone has to explain everything to everyone else. Blah. And then Kanon thinks he's being edgy by writing in a bunch of short sentence fragments. Blah.

The second problem, which is much more eggregious, is that Kanon is as dull as his main character Jake Geismar when it comes to women. A woman is raped and then has an abortion and here's Jake Geismar getti
Apr 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The days surrounding the fall of the Third Reich have never failed to generate an interest among historians and romantics alike. So was the case with me when I picked this book up during a random search in a forgettable old book sale. Sold to me at a half price or probably lesser than that, I kept this book in my shelf for almost a year before someone read it and got so impressed that they recurrently begged me to consider reading it. So, now I'm done with it and I'm impressed- so much that I'm ...more
Todd Stockslager
Falls a good editor short of "Worth my time" status. Involved and overlong mystery set in immediately post-war Berlin in 1945 has too many intricate subplots (and subsequent false-ending resolutions) to sustain edge-of-seat emotional levels all the way through, and the great emotional impact of the first few scenes setting up the philsophical discussion of the "good" German is dulled by too many repetitions.

Still, the characters are enjoyable, the dialogue is good, and the plotting strong enoug
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have had this on my to-read list for a long time, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it.

The Good German is a subtle mystery that will keep you guessing until the end, but what really makes it work is its uncanny ear for the dialogue of the WWII generation and the ways they have of relating to each other, and the complex, nuanced moral entanglements the book lays out.

Jake Geismar is an American journalist who has come back to the ravaged ruins of Berlin at the end of World War II. He soon
Feb 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs and action fans
If Tom Clancy and Casablanca had a love child, it'd be this book, and it's a great read. More action and faced-paced suspense than Casablanca, more emotional depth than Clancy. But at the same time, it has both their drawbacks as well -- too many characters with interchangeable Russian and German names, and it depends on the reader having a healthy knowledge of the history of WWII in order to understand the story.

Still, I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue in the story, and Kanon's portrayal of p
Not my favorite. It’s very plot-heavy, and I’m a character-development lover. I love the descriptions of Berlin and I wish I’d had a map to trace where he was at every move. That said, he knew far too much of Berlin far too well. The city is much bigger than Kanon makes it out to be. I do like the way in which he tackles guilt, remorse, and Vergangenheitsbewaltigung.
Mal Warwick
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Throughout most of the past millennium war has been largely a civilized affair fought by professional armies operating under established rules. With a few notable exceptions—the rape and pillage of the Mongol hordes in the thirteenth century, for example, and the mass conscription introduced in the French Revolution—civilians had remained unaffected for the most part by war until the nineteenth century. Then advanced weaponry made possible by the Industrial Revolution and the evolution nationali ...more
Barbara Franklin
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Joseph Kanon is a master of the postwar spy genre. His writing creates the mood of Berlin. His plot has twists and turns that keep the reader puzzled until nearly the last page.
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leaving Berlin is my favourite novel of the past decade, so I’ve worked backwards through Joseph Kanon’s bibliography to see what other gems he has.

The Good German has all his best elements, with great plotting, atmosphere, genius dialogue, and very deeply researched historical context. I particularly appreciate how our hero escapes a perilous chase with no way out because a major historical event occurs. Seems almost like a blatant feud ex machina, but it’s not; history really happened, so we
Andrew Robins
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was off to a good start with me based on the synopsis alone - I love fiction based either during or after the second world war, so in that sense, that was a star earned from the start.

However, it turns out that this is a really excellent, cleverly written book.

It tells the story of Jake Geismar, an American journalist who, in the years before the war, was based in Berlin, and in that time had an affair with the wife of a German rocket scientist.

After the end of the war in Europe, he c
Jun 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Took a little fiction detour over the weekend with this and thoroughly enjoyed it. Couldn't seem to help myself, it unspooled in my head as a black and white movie with strong Bogie and Becall overtones. It's a mystery, thriller, romance, history lesson, study in morality, and I don't now what else all rolled into one. Set in Berlin immediately at the end of WWII I was hooked by the multiple plot lines - Jake finding Lena and solving the mystery of an American GI found with loads of cash in the ...more
Apr 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Mixed feelings about this one.

I like how detailed the author is in his descriptions of Berlin immediately after WWII. I realize there are some inaccuracies, but I appreciate the author being honest about them on the first page. Overall, I found his descriptions to be believable (aside from the already noted inaccuracies), and the character situations to be as well. However, the amount of detail made the story drag at points, so I was glad when I finally finished this one.

What put a bad taste in
Nov 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I found this book in an excellent article about so-called Berlin Noir novels (Wall St Jnl, 4/30/11; see link below). For me the main intrigue--involving a murder and a Russian/US tug-of-war over a German rocket scientist--was less interesting than the portrayal of Berlin and its inhabitants in the months just after the German surrender in 1945. The city was in ruins and occupied in different zones by the Allies who are trying to institute a program referred to in the novel as the 4 Ds: demilitar ...more
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was definitely the best Kanon book I’ve read so far. The story was just exciting. I couldn’t tell what was going to come next or who to trust. While exciting, I wasn’t a nervous wreck, like in so many thrillers (which makes reading not so enjoyable).

The story tackles a really ugly time in history, post WWII Berlin, in a way you don’t often read. The story follows an American correspondent on assignment with the Military Government in Berlin in 1945. Although he sought a love from before th
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author expertly creates the setting and atmosphere of Berlin in 1945 as the British, American and Russian victors pick over the corpse of a defeated nation, whilst suspiciously eyeing each other. American reporter Jake Geismar arrives by plane to cover the leader's summit, unaware that he will soon get side-tracked into a murder and racketeering investigation that will put his own life at risk. This is a fascinating thriller that skilfully and thoughtfully examines the post-War settlement an ...more
Sep 03, 2007 added it
The Bestselling author of Los Alamos and Alibi returns to 1945. Hitler has been defeated and Berlin is divided into zones of occupation. Jake Geismar, an Americsn correspondent who spent time in the city before the war, has returned to write about the Allied triumph while persuing a more personal quest: his search for Lena, the married woman he left behind. The Good German is a story of espionage, love, and murder, and extraordinary re-creation of a city devastated by war, and a thriller that as ...more
Tom Jeffs
Nov 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Joseph Kanon's third novel set in Berlin in the days right after the Russian victory and the collapse of The Third Reich. Kanon gives us a superb portrait of the chaos of the first days of occupation and the beginning of the soon to follow cold war. The characters and plot are carefully developed, but the central theme is the reality that an entire nation is guilty of genocide, thus the challenge to find "the good German" If you like intrigue, complex plots and are fascinated by the torm ...more
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I have to admit, I did not finish this book which is unusual for me. I got 2/3 of the way through and couldn't go on. There was really nothing that kept me wanting to come back to see what was happening I think primarily because there was little character development so I couldn't identify or really like any of the characters. However, there were many characters! So many that I wish I had taken notes at the beginning of the book. A murder takes place within the first chapter but I really could n ...more
Jun 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of WWII stories
Recommended to Sheila by: Joseph Beth Booksellers
I loved this book. It was fast paced, suspenseful, excellent. I couldn't put it down. It's a murder mystery set at the Potsdam Conference after WWII. It involves the US, Britain, and Russia. There is the black market, finding Nazis, escaping from the Russian controlled area of Germany, discovering how far the "good" guys will go to get the scientific brain power of Nazi Germany. A page turner! ...more
Nancy Cook  Lauer
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
What an intense book. The story of a U.S. journalist returning to war-torn Berlin to cover the Potsdam Conference. The search for his missing lover, the efforts to bring Nazis to justice, the details of the camps, so much violence, so much sadness. The United States' willingness to overlook war crimes in order to bring rocket scientists to America. It's all fictionalized here, while hewing closely to history. A disturbing era that I learned far too little about in school. ...more
Cindy Daft
Aug 28, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Tiffany
Although I couldn't get the movie actors out of my mind while reading the book; George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, I really enjoyed this novel set in 1945 Berlin. Evokes much thought about who were really the bad people in Germany during the war. Plot was a little twisted and confusing, but the love story conquers all. ...more
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This novel plays like some of the great noir films. A young American soldier in WWII Germany discovers a body, and mystery and intrigue ensues. For some, the beginning may be a bit slow, but as the mystery builds, the pages will begin to turn faster. This is a really cool WWII thriller that readers will really enjoy.
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jake Geismar, a former Berlin correspondent for CBS, wrangles a coveted spot for the Potsdam Conference at the end of WWII. While looking for his German mistress who he left four years prior, he stumbles across a murder of an American soldier in the Russian section of Berlin. Jake finds corruption and intrigue reaching deep into the heart of the occupations in a city that is physically and morally devastated. Rubble is everywhere, the air thick with mortar dust and bodies still float in the cana ...more
Ana Santos
Nov 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
3 rating that would have likely been a solid 4 if the audio book had not been abridged to death.

Listened on Audible without realizing that the 482 page book had been unnecessarily chopped down to a hasty 6 hours and 48 minutes (of oftentimes regretfully flat narration). Post-war Berlin is an atmospheric setting for what is an obviously well-researched novel, but unfortunately the truncated plot felt both a bit predictable, and also confusing at times. Despite their inability to really develop, I
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carolyn by: Jim Gysin
Great story, beautifully told. It presents a very sophisticated and nuanced view of German war guilt and the things people did to survive under the Nazis. The descriptions of Berlin in the summer of 1945 are so atmospheric it's like being there. They made me nostalgic: I was there in the summer of 1958 when there was still a lot of war damage. It's probably the most exciting city I've ever been in, maybe because it was still quite dangerous then, with soldiers pointing rifles at anyone who appro ...more
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Ladies & Literature: Official April 2015 Book Discussion: The Good German 17 37 Jun 06, 2015 05:34AM  

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