The Good German

Joseph Kanon




Trade Paperback

496 Pages



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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 American correspondent who spent time in the city before the war, has returned to write about the Allied triumph while pursuing 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, an 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 of war.


Praise for The Good German

"[Joseph Kanon] is fast approaching the complexity and relevance not just of le Carré and Greene but even of Orwell: provocative, fully realized fiction that explores, as only fiction can, the reality of history as it is lived by individual men and women."—The New York Times Book Review

"Kanon serves up a potent mix of intrigue, cynicism, and an occasional flash of idealism."—Los Angeles Times

"Kanon is as ambitious a novelist as he is a gifted one."—The Washington Post
"Kanon is the heir apparent to Graham Greene and early- and mid-passage le Carré, for he writes of moral quandaries that are real and not created to drive a plot . . . The multilayered story is beautifully told."—The Boston Globe

"Kanon has written a tale about the untenable choices war entails, and about the moral dangers of demonization. For American readers, the book cuts to the bone, coming at a time when we have become the demonized and are doing our best to avoid becoming the demonizers."—Newsday

"What Carol Reed's film The Third Man did for Vienna immediately after World War II, Kanon's superb thriller does for Berlin during the same period. Jake Geismar, CBS Berlin correspondent before the war, jumps at the chance to return to the German capital to cover the Potsdam Conference. His real motive isn't postwar politics, though; it's finding the German girl, Lena, he left behind. What he finds first, however, is the dead body of an American soldier washed ashore near the conference grounds. Despite the efforts of the American brass to sweep the G.I.'s death under the bureaucratic rug, Jake smells a story, and the trail leads him to Lena. As he displayed in the Edgar-winning Los Alamos, Kanon is a master at surrounding a legendary historical moment with a labyrinth thriller plot and an involving love story. Here that historical moment—Berlin at its most post-apocalyptic—drives both the thriller, which involves American and Russian attempts to snatch German rocket scientists (one of whom is Jake's girl's husband), and the love story, which must rise phoenix-like from the rubble of bombed-out buildings and ruined lives. Hovering over it all is the legacy of the Holocaust—on the postwar world, on Germany, and on individual men and women, whose ability to feel has been deadened by the nearness of evil. Kanon hits every note just right, from the wide-angle descriptions of Berlin's pockmarked moonscape to the tellingly detailed portraits of the city's shellshocked survivors. Superb popular fiction, combining propulsive narrative drive with a subtle grasp of character and a fine sense of moral ambiguity."—Booklist

"Again taking one of the 20th century's most momentous periods as a backdrop, Kanon recreates Berlin in the months following WWII in this lavishly atmospheric thriller overburdened with political and romantic intrigue . . . At the center of the drama is Jake Geismar, a journalist who arrives in Berlin ostensibly to cover the Potsdam Conference . . . Geismar becomes intrigued by the murder of an American soldier whose body washes ashore near the conference grounds. The military's reluctance to investigate or provide any details of the murder convinces Geismar that this could be his big story. Though he's warned not to meddle, Geismar can't resist the story's draw. His investigation leads him deeply into Berlin's agonizing struggle for survival its black market, its collective guilt and its citizens' feeble attempts to wash themselves clean of wartime atrocities. And, most importantly, Geismar learns of the Allies' frantic attempts to round up Nazi scientists . . . Kanon is at his strongest when giving voice to the hard choices and moral dilemmas of the times."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Joseph Kanon

  • Joseph Kanon is the author of four novels, including Alibi. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a book publishing executive. He lives in New York City.

  • Joseph Kanon



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