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The Good German

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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 washes up on the conference grounds -- he thinks he has found the key that will unlock his Berlin story. What Jake finds instead is a larger story of corruption and intrigue reaching deep into the heart of the occupation. Berlin in July 1945 is like nowhere else -- a tragedy, and a feverish party after the end of the world.

As Jake searches the ruins for Lena, he discovers that years of war have led to unimaginable displacement and degradation. As he hunts for the soldier's killer, he learns that Berlin has become a city of secrets, a lunar landscape that seethes with social and political tension. When the two searches become entangled, Jake comes to understand that the American Military Government is already fighting a new enemy in the east, busily identifying the "good Germans" who can help win the next war. And hanging over everything is the larger crime, a crime so huge that it seems -- the worst irony -- beyond punishment.

At once a murder mystery, a moving love story, and a riveting portrait of a unique time and place, The Good German is a historical thriller of the first rank.

482 pages, Paperback

First published September 30, 2001

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Joseph Kanon

25 books731 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 631 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah.
20 reviews
August 23, 2007
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!
Profile Image for Friederike Knabe.
397 reviews154 followers
August 24, 2013
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, is really in Berlin fulfilling a promise, a quest. Kanon's portrayal of Berlin is accurate - based on visits to the modern Berlin and his in depth research of the Berlin at the end of WWII and the changes since then. You could easily use it as a tour guide of a different kind.

But of course, Berlin of 1945 is not the story. The story of the returning US journalist and his German girlfriend leads the reader like a red thread through the book. Her family is mixed in with the plot. The description of day-to-day life in difficult times gives the story reality and perspective. People do a lot just for a package of cigarettes.

Jake's search for his love of the happier pre-war days through the ruins, the alleyways, is becoming increasingly desperate. Is she still alive? Where would she be? Finding an individual in those early post-war months in Germany was almost impossible; no records were available, the houses where they had lived often destroyed and no forwarding address - unless you were really lucky.

Things turn out to be a lot more complex as you go: more deaths and threats, intrigue and false allies. And the tension grows. It is a thriller after all: a thriller with political messages as well as interesting character developments. In addition to Jake, the protagonist, and Lena, his girlfriend, we meet intriguing characters, in particular among the Germans. While the Russians dismantled factories, taking home whatever technology they could find, a special team from the US's occupying forces were rounding up the scientists and experts who designed the technology in the first place. The Russians realized the problem and tried to get in on the act. Would it work? So, who is the Good German?

The events around the Potsdam Conference provide a useful backdrop. It fits the story well to observe the increasing tension between US and Soviet soldiers who easily turn to an exchange of gunfire to mask more sinister intentions.

Kanon's book is in a category of its own. More than a thriller and more than a romantic story, it is a skillfully put together account of a complex situation in a difficult moment of time. It is successful as "a good read" and as a chronicle of events that gives the reader food for thought and reflection.

this is a revised version of a ten-year old review.
Profile Image for Jenna.
56 reviews
September 5, 2012
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 getting all huffy that she won't sleep with him right away. Worse still is that she consents quickly--I guess no means yes to Kanon. What has happened to her is beyond horrific, and not for Kanon and Geismar to make light of. I wanted to rip the pages out of this book.
Profile Image for Lewis Weinstein.
Author 9 books491 followers
November 24, 2012
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 plentiful and each adds a sharp emphasis to the story. The post-war devastation of Berlin is portrayed with frightening clarity. The plot is complicated and difficult to keep fully in mind, as the reader shares the frustration of American reporter Jake Geismar in sorting through it, but that is exactly the real-life confusion Kanon wants to show.

I will be dealing with some of the same issues - what did Germans know and why did they do what they did? - in my new novel tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER. Kanon has set a high bar.

Profile Image for Joy D.
1,771 reviews213 followers
June 9, 2018
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 with Wernher von Braun. Jake uncovers the corruption of the black market and a covert struggle between the Americans and the Soviets to lure German scientists for assistance in arms development in advance of the Cold War.

The author combines elements of mystery, romance, and history into a compelling story with well-developed characters. It explores ethical questions of whether involvement with the Nazis will result in punishment or exoneration. Should scientists get a free pass because they continue to be useful? The main plot and sub-plots are woven together expertly. The novel conveys a strong sense of place. I could picture the bombed-out rubble of Berlin. As in many mysteries, some of the key pieces of information are delivered through plot devices.

I had not previously joined the audiobook trend, but when I found myself facing a long drive, I decided to try it. I came across this one at my local library. The audiobook reader, Stanley Tucci, does an excellent job of modulating his voice and creating realistic differentiated accents to render the various German, American, and Russian characters of both sexes. It kept us entertained while driving for over seven hours. Recommended to fans of historical fiction or mysteries, especially of the period surrounding WWII. Contains language, sex, and violence.
Profile Image for Atishay.
89 reviews22 followers
May 10, 2012
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 almost tempted to take the hand of the person who got me reading it.
Imagine Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable rolled into one and we have the protagonist of the novel, Jake Geismar, a war journalist who returns to a new Germany occupied by allied troops in search of his love, Lena. Looking for a story in the ruined city of Berlin, he finds the body of an American soldier washed up on the shores of a river. Getting interested in knowing the motive and the culprit, Geismar travels all over the map of Berlin asking questions and making friends and enemies. Craftily woven into this central plot is the love triangle between Jake, Lena and her still surviving husband Emil, who was a scientist in the Third Reich.
Kanon proves himself to be a deft mover of situations as the characters move from one story to another smoothly with all corners of the story perfectly in balance all the time. The Good German also carries the undertones of the vulnerability of that period. It carefully and I believe accurately depicts the emotions and feelings of the german people during those moments when the world saw them with heart full of nothing but hatred. Particularly then when their homes were devastated by the forces and their children were terrorized and homeless.Probably a cost paid for a crime they didn't commit or were unaccountable for. Hence, it raises the question of 'A Good German' which probably prompted Kanon to place that as the title to the book.
Four stars to the book for being a thriller, romance and history all rolled into one. I implore the reader of my review to give this book a chance. Kanon can definitely do a plus one in his fan list.
Profile Image for Todd Stockslager.
1,641 reviews26 followers
June 9, 2015
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 enough to pass the mystery test of reaching a point where the reader has to finish the book without stopping no matter how late at night. You'll just wish that point (and the end) had come about 75 pages sooner. Its easy to see why this book is the basis for a soon-to-be released Hollywood treatment with George Clooney in the lead role.
Profile Image for Mark.
1,095 reviews137 followers
March 16, 2015
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 has two goals: one personal, one professional. The personal goal is to see if his lover from before the war, Lena Brandt, the wife of a brilliant mathematician, is still alive. The professional one is to figure out who killed a soldier who was on the same incoming flight as Geismar, and whose body washes up on the shore of a lake in Potsdam during the Churchill-Stalin-Truman peace conference, his uniform stuffed with Russian money.

Jake is supposed to be in Berlin to write features for a magazine, but that takes up only a small part of his time. He finds Lena, who has been through her own hell to survive, and nurses her back to health with the help of a Jewish doctor. She thinks her husband is dead, but it soon is apparent he is not only alive but is one of the many rocket scientists the Americans want to take back with them and keep away from the Russians, no matter how entangled the German scientists were with the Nazis.

As for the dead soldier, Geismar starts working with the theory that he was the victim of some black market scheme gone awry, but he then learns that the soldier is somehow connected to his lover's husband, and that both the American and Russian intelligence operatives want to find him.

Before it's all over with, a close friend of Geismar's will be killed, he will work with a tough American soldier who may be betraying him, a former German police officer whose fine mind shines through his alcoholism, and he will have to make a critical decision about the fate of Lena's husband. Mixed into this already tense and complicated story is the discovery that another of his former employees is on trial for turning over fellow Jews to the Nazis, and Jake ends up taking responsibility for the real reason she did that in the first place.

There are times when the clipped dialogue gets almost too cryptic, but along the way, Kanon reveals just how morally compromised everyone in the war was, no matter how much some of them wanted to paint a simple picture of good guys vs. bad guys.

This is a tremendously paced novel that is a worthy member of the club that includes Alan Furst, David Downing, John Le Carre, and other masters of morally ambiguous sagas.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
61 reviews
February 29, 2008
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 postwar Berlin was nuanced and moving.
Profile Image for zan.
54 reviews4 followers
March 1, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Naomi.
453 reviews1 follower
April 14, 2015
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 my mouth about this book is Jake and his inability to empathize with those around him, particularly Lena's situation. He finds her, which is romantic, but then immediately tries to make her revert to her pre-WWII self. She tells him the horrible things she has undergone since the last time they saw each other, but he brushes them off and seems to want her to immediately get over it and move on. But you can't do that, Jake! Everyone deals with trauma differently, and just because he wants Lena to be okay again, doesn't mean it works that way. Her pain and trauma and recovery isn't on a timeline he can control, and he shouldn't do so.

Also, I understand why Jake becomes so wrapped up in his story, but he does it in a way that puts other people in harm's way, but he doesn't seem to care about it. He only cares about the end goal, whatever it may be, and if others get hurt in the process, then so what. I do agree that he should pursue the story, since it is one that needs to be uncovered and told, but I don't like how he approaches it.

Despite the issues I just mentioned, I did like other parts of this a lot. I can only imagine how scary and confusing and devastating life in post-WWII Berlin was for everyone involved, as well as many more feelings, and I like that the author is able to present that confusion to the readers. I like that the story is set to a (mostly) true background, which makes the story more believable in general.

So did I love this? No. (I just can't get over some of the specific scenes of Jake being an absolute jerk). But do I dislike it? No.
Profile Image for Mal Warwick.
Author 28 books391 followers
October 9, 2019
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 nationalism with its demands for expanding borders eventually led national leaders to wage total war.

The tragic cost of total war

Sadly, the world witnessed the full flowering of total war in the eight-year period from 1937 to 1945. We know that period today as the Second World War. (Historians might well remember it as the final stage of the Second Thirty Years' War.) With strategic bombing, unrestricted submarine warfare, the protracted blockade of beleaguered cities, and the widespread practice of systematic genocide, World War II killed at least seventy million people and as many as eighty-five million, more than fifty million of whom were civilians.

Dramatizing the true price paid by civilians

For Americans, who were largely spared the full impact of the war, it's difficult to grasp the high price paid by others. In most of Europe and East Asia, hundreds of millions were most directly involved in the fighting for years on end. Historians's accounts of their experience typically fall flat. For most of us, the reality of total war comes to light only through works of the imagination, principally film and books. And one book stands out in my mind for its vivid portrayal of Berlin in the aftermath of World War II: The Good German by Joseph Kanon.

A story of intrigue, corruption, and love

Journalist Jake Geismar has wangled a ticket to Berlin to report for Collier's magazine on the upcoming Potsdam Conference (July 17 to August 2, 1945). There, Josef Stalin, Winston Churchill (and later Clement Attlee), and Harry Truman would meet to decide how to administer Germany. But Jake is far less interested in the power struggle among the three Allies than in Lena Brandt, the woman he loves, whom he'd left behind in Berlin four years earlier when the Nazi government expelled him. Yet when Jake stumbles across the body of an American soldier in the Russian zone, he is confronted with a mystery he can't resist pursuing.

America's unique reparations scheme

Jake's aggressive inquiry into the soldier's death leads him into a thicket of corruption involving not just Germans struggling to survive but unscrupulous men in all three of the occupying powers. This was, he notes, "the story nobody wanted him to do. Which meant it was the only one worth doing." And he soon finds himself tangling with American officials who have come to Germany to execute the top-secret Operation Paperclip, under which more than 1,600 German rocket scientists, engineers, and technicians were shipped to the United States along with tons of documents and materials.

A vivid picture of the consequences of total war

As a novel of intrigue, The Good German excels. You'll share Jake's puzzlement as he slowly makes his way toward the truth about the soldier's murder. You'll marvel at the scope and the mechanics of the black market that kept the civilian population alive. (As just one measure of how extensively the black market had penetrated the occupation force, consider this: "Last month [American] troops were paid about a million dollars. they sent three million home.") But you're likely to recall more vividly still the picture Kanon paints of Berlin in the aftermath of the war.

Between the strategic bombing—the British by night, the Americans by day—and Russian artillery, little was left standing in the German capital. You'll later bring to mind an image of "a floor in the Chancellery, heaped with Iron Crosses" amid the rubble. And you'll walk away haunted by the images of skeletal children wandering through the dust and debris.

This is what modern war really means.
Profile Image for Pili.
513 reviews
April 30, 2020
Soy bastante cobarde para enfrentarme a historias ambientadas en ciertas épocas, así que tenía este libro relegado. Finalmente me animé a leerlo y quedé gratamente sorprendida por la experiencia. Un crimen es el hilo conductor pero el espíritu real del libro es la constante confrontación y dualidad moral de cada personaje. Nada es blanco o negro. Normalmente me incomoda la ambigüedad pero a lo largo de las casi 700 páginas, ni yo misma fui capaz de "tomar partido".

[Conf. BCN - 16]
Profile Image for Barbara Franklin.
141 reviews5 followers
January 20, 2019
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.
25 reviews
September 26, 2020
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 knew it was coming.

Four instead of five because it was a bit too labyrinthine to be fully satisfying. I couldn’t keep track of all the characters enough to care when the killer was revealed.
Profile Image for Andrew Robins.
112 reviews11 followers
December 3, 2014
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 comes back, officially to cover the Potsdam Conference, but really to find his pre war lover. Whilst at Potsdam, he sees the discovery of the body of an American officer, dragged out of the river whilst carrying a huge amount of money.

This leads into a multithreaded story involving him tracking down what happened to the soldier whilst trying to find his pre-war lover, whose husband turns out not to be dead as first thought, but to be very much alive, and wanted by both the Russian and American forces.

This book is much more than that, though. The bigger question it poses - hinted at by the title - is that of what constituted a "good" German in the days immediately following the war, and who got to decide exactly what "good" meant?

We have the subplot of a jewish woman on trial by the occupation forces for having acted as a "greifer" - a Jew who guaranteed her own survival so long as she identified "U boats", jews hiding from deportation by walking around Berlin all day.

At first, we are to think that she deserves all she gets, but as the story pans out, we start to question whether she was really guilty of anything more than other Germans - or indeed Americans and Russians - in the story.

We have the rocket scientist who, despite being non political, could be seen as complicit in the use of slave labour at Nordhausen. Then there is the friend of Geismar's lover, who was happy to pander to Nazis and is equally happy to pander to the occupation forces just to survive.

There is the lone US lawyer, a Jew dilligently chasing down those guilty of war crimes, working for an administration which doesn't really care about finding the small cogs in the machine who have blood on their hands. The US politician whose only concern is to find the rocket scientists to get them back to the US to exploit their huge knowledge.

In all this, who is "good" and who is "bad"? That is what this book is about, and it asks the question very eloquently,

A very intelligent, well written, highly readable book.
Profile Image for Susan.
976 reviews
June 1, 2010
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 blocked off Russian zone just to name two, then fascinated by the mood of the city and moral gray zones - wanting to get back to normal, worrying about the coming winter, does it matter who was a Nazi for real or who was a Nazi just to survive? if you can answer that then who and how should they be punished? if we can steal their research and harness their brain power does that make it okay to let the whole Nazi thing slide? What does that make us?

Made me remember a book I read years ago in which the citizens of a German village near a concentration camp are forced to not only view the camp after liberation but to assist in the clean up. During the bus ride home one self righteous and very angry hausfrau comments that it wasn't their fault, they didn't know, why should they be made to feel guilty and forced to do see such things and do such horrible labor? They didn't do this, the soldiers did and so on. Her seat partner offers the comment that this was no excuse, that on top of not having done anything to prevent the atrocities the even greater shame was perhaps this very thing: that they didn't know. Because it seemed to her that they willfully chose not to know what all those trains were about, arriving full, leaving empty, the smoke etc, they did not ask questions, they did not want to know, their silence and refusal to see condoned the actions and in her eyes they were therefore guilty.

Lots to think about, would be a good discussion book. Oh, and while I haven't seen the movie (rated R) I would guess from the description on the back of the DVD case that it bears little resemblance to the book beyond the main characters name and the setting, classic Hollywood can't leave a good story to stand on it's own.
Profile Image for David.
122 reviews
January 11, 2012
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: demilitarization, de-Nazification, decartelization, and democracy. While the process is beginning of identifying and trying war criminals, there is a countervailing movement to return Germany to normalcy, in part by letting some morally questionable acts go unpunished--especially if the perpetrators, like certain scientists, can be of use to the victors. This tension between right and wrong--on a individual and societal level--in the setting of a city traumatized both by its Nazi past and its defeat and destruction makes this a powerful novel.

I discovered while reading it that THE GOOD GERMAN was released as a Stephen Soderbergh movie starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, which I had not taken notice of, in 2006--but which is now in my Netflix queue.

Profile Image for Kathleen.
45 reviews1 follower
December 23, 2019
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 the war, he found murder and corruption on the American side, that amazingly ties in with several of his friends from before the war.

There were a few first person/third person storytelling errors, which I found confusing. Kanon’s writing is also choppy at times, but that seems to be his style and isn’t bothersome once you have read a few chapters. There was much allusion to backstory between the characters that wasn’t always developed, but generally their stories were well told. I liked this book a lot, 4 stars.
Profile Image for Tim.
Author 16 books76 followers
July 4, 2018
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 and treatment of German survivors by the uneasy allies, with power, corruption and lies swirling around the central love story involving Jake and his pre-War girlfriend, Lena. A terrifically engaging and thought-provoking read that examines the ethics of war crimes and the hypocrisy of the victors. Highly recommended.
4 reviews
September 3, 2007
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 asks the most profound ethical questions in its exploration of the nature of justice and what we mean by good and evil in times of peace and war.
5 reviews1 follower
November 26, 2009
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 torment of Europe in the middle of the 20th century, this book will captivate you. I plan to read all of Kanon's other novels
Profile Image for Margaretanne.
58 reviews1 follower
September 9, 2012
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 not develop an interest to see who the murderer was so I had to abandon the book after much struggling to continue. I think I'll just watch the movie - ha!
Profile Image for Sheila.
2,748 reviews41 followers
June 22, 2008
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!
Profile Image for Nancy Cook  Lauer.
748 reviews5 followers
December 3, 2017
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.
3 reviews
August 28, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Ethan.
633 reviews97 followers
June 11, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 33 books1 follower
June 16, 2017
A fairly run of the mill thriller, a bit overlong I thought, with the characters not defined enough to tell them apart. Rather too much time spent on peripheral scenes. An okay holiday read, not much more.
Profile Image for Jan.
1,878 reviews79 followers
June 13, 2019
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 canal. While searching for his Lena and the soldier's killer, Jake comes to understand that the American Military Government is already fighting a new enemy in the east, busily identifying the "good" Germans who can help win the next war including von Braun and his scientists. At what point did they know what was going on in the camps and to what degree did they help? This is a great story, a historical thriller, and gives valuable insight into what it was like in Berlin in 1945.
Profile Image for Ann.
150 reviews47 followers
January 16, 2022
This novel is set in Berlin immediately after WWII (at the time of the Potsdam conference). It is the story of a journalist who (while trying to determine who killed a young American soldier) must deal with the many aspects of post-war Berlin, including the black market and the desire by all sides to capture the German rocket scientists. When you read Joseph Kanon, you see and feel Berlin - the poverty, the black market, the politics, the different attitudes of the different Allied personnel. I knew there was a lot of focus on the getting the German rocket science information - but I did not realize quite how intense that was. I also never knew that a person (Nazi) could buy documents that stated that such a person never was a Nazi - and thus permitting such a person to emigrate. As with other Kanon novels, this was a good, fast paced interesting read.
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