Now published as a Kindle e-book
The ninth Otto Fischer novel:
For Otto Fischer, time has run out. The
1958 elections to West Berlin's House of Representatives - the Abgeordnetenhaus - have seen the SPD increase their majority, and Fischer is one of their second-vote candidates. He will go to the
House not just as a servant of the people but of General Zarubin also - a Soviet agent in the West's forward trench.
A reluctant spy, Fischer doesn't suspect the worst of it. Zarubin is engulfed in a power struggle with the Head of KGB, the fearsome Ivan Serov, and part of their battle will be fought on the streets of Berlin. Even in a world bound by misdirection, misinformation and betrayal, the protagonists lose all sense of who may be trusted and who needs a bullet, quickly.
Fischer needs a way out, but no exits are marked. Ordered to make a place for himself in Mayor Willy Brandt's office, pestered by his old friend Freddie Holleman to come clean about his political career, and shadowed by someone with old business to settle, he has to make himself either invisible or indigestible.
Interbau - the 1957 International
Bauhaus Exhibition, to be hosted by West Berlin. For the city, it is a chance both to show that it is more than an outpost of Cold War confrontation and to stake a final, hopeful claim to being the
natural capital of the West German State.
In the smashed Berlin district of Hansaviertel, a host of leading international architects are designing a new suburb that will be unlike anything yet seen in European cities. The project has the backing of leading political figures in Bonn and Berlin, and nothing can be allowed to impact upon its success. Among the many hundreds who will plan and execute the scheme, however, are a number of men who have done their best to hide past crimes and present themselves as decent, forward-looking Germans. One, perhaps the worst of them, has committed murder both on a personal and near-industrial scale, yet his name is on no wanted list.
None of this should be Otto Fischer's business, but for once he has only himself to blame. Pushed by KGB to enter Berlin politics, pulled by a moral responsibility to avenge old crimes, his only consolation is that he's probably not going to lose much sleep over providing for a peaceful retirement.
April 1955 - in a few days, the Federal Republic of Germany will sign an official Peace Treaty with the Allies and assume full sovereignty over her affairs. The nation looks to a bright future, but ghosts of a darker past linger unquietly - not least among those charged with her defence.
In West Berlin, celebrations are muted by the
enclave's continuing occupation and a string of murders whose investigation, rigorous at first, appears to be stalling. Rumours are rife that the body count has been understated, and theories
regarding motives and perpetrators circulate widely and wildly.
Untouched equally by political developments and lurid opinions on bloody crimes, Otto Fischer attends to his own, modest business, burdened only by a local widow's ruthless campaign to get him to the altar. But when someone recommended by his closest friend offers him a great deal of money to arrange a mildly illegal matter he breaks the habit of a lifetime and fails to examine the gift-horse's mouth with sufficient care. Soon, ghosts, politics, murder and a maul of rival Intelligence agencies are lining up with the widow to make either suicide or Buenos Aires his most attractive option.
June 1953: three months after the death of Josef Stalin, a succession struggle paralyses the Kremlin.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union's fledgling client-state East Germany is having a disastrous year, its economic master plan failing so badly that even good socialists are wondering if the rush to socialism is a mistake. In normal times they could look to Moscow for help and guidance, but all they get are distracted words of caution.
On 17 June, the previous day's isolated outbreaks of industrial unrest grow into a nation-wide outpouring of grievance. Hundreds of thousands of workers strike, and as the day goes on, ordinary citizens join them, taking to the streets to demand free elections and an end to one-party rule. There are too few police and State Security forces to restore order, and they hardly make the attempt. The longer the unrest continues, the more likely it is that the Red Army will intervene, brutally.
On this fateful day, two fugitives come to West Berlin, each hoping to influence a nation's future. To succeed, they need help – help that doesn’t ask questions or fear to take risks. It asks a hell of lot, that sort of help, and Otto Fischer, clock-repairer of Lichterfelde, wishes very much that they’d looked elsewhere.
Berlin, September 1948: the first great confrontation of the Cold War. Realizing that Washington and London are working
to establish a separate western German state, Stalin has ordered the Red Army to close all land routes into the city from the west in an attempt to force out the Allied administration. The Americans
and British organize a massive airlift to feed and fuel the besieged population.
As tensions between the Occupying Powers heighten, a bereaved Otto Fischer flies into Berlin but disappears minutes after touching down at Tempelhof airfield. Frantically, his old friend Freddie Holleman mobilizes police resources to find him, with disastrous results. Meanwhile, their old adversary Major Zarubin of Soviet Intelligence is forced to confront a shadowy figure who seems to be beyond the reach of every agency of state. As their efforts converge, apparently unconnected events - executions in an eastern Berlin suburb, a host of black market transactions that cross the east-west demarcation line unchallenged and an internal struggle for control of the dreaded Fifth Directorate, precursor to the Stasi - pose a question: who wields power in a Germany whose form and nature have yet to be determined?
Germany, 1947: a ruined nation, divided by its conquerors, awaits a future it has no part in shaping. Already, the
Occupiers are drawing apart, their clashing ideologies marking out the lines of a new struggle. Foot soldiers are being recruited from among the captive population; some have shaped themselves to fit
a hard new world, others live with new names and faces, hiding from the consequences of their past crimes.
Otto Fischer has only half a face, and no idea where to point it. He is an ex-policemen who hates police work, a former parachutist in a country with no air-force, a forcibly retired intelligence officer with no secrets to keep - except one. In Berlin, his old friend Freddie Holleman lives under a false identity. He is a rising star in the German Communist Party and one of the few effective police officers struggling to establish order in a lawless city. But as he attempts to bring to justice a killer of children he becomes a pawn - a disposable piece in a game for which the rules have yet to be set down.
Fischer can see only one way to save Holleman, and that is to give both sides what they want without giving them anything. In the fog of a strange new war, information is currency and he knows stuff. He just hasn't made it up yet.
Stettin, 1945/6 - a town at the end of one world and the beginning of another - a
near-lawless wen of German residents and refugees, desperately clinging to a history, a sense of belonging; of Polish settlers, gangsters and sharp-dealers, all looking to seize a life here in New
Poland, the 'wild west'; of Red Army personnel, busily supervising the stripping out of industrial machinery, natural resources and personal booty from what used to be eastern Germany.
In this broil of hope, greed and despair, Otto Fischer - a broken-bodied Luftwaffe veteran - has found oblivion and unlikely love. But the storm of change sweeping across Stettin leaves no refuge untouched. A solitary, casual murder crushes his thin hopes of a personal future, throwing him into the path of men for whom any German life is worthless currency. At what seems to be the whim of a Russian Intelligence officer he is charged with finding the murderer, when every instinct tells him that the last thing the Red Army wants is a resolution.
Berlin, December 1944 - the heart of an empire that stands upon the precipice. France has
been lost, the vast eastern territories marked out as lebensraum for future German generations submerged beneath the advancing Red tide. The pulse of the city has stilled; its famously phlegmatic
citizens wait apprehensively, hoping for a miracle, expecting the deluge.
In one of Berlin's suburbs, a different, more personal fear prevails. Women are dying, seemingly at the same hand, and the police are unwilling or unable to act. In a nation in which unspeakable excess has been formalized as policy, the creature may be untouchable. A silence has fallen upon Berlin-Lichterfelde, where many secrets converge.
Major Otto Fischer, an invalided Luftwaffe Intelligence officer, undertakes the pursuit of the killer and his abettors. He has no resources, no time, no authority other than from a man whose involvement cannot be known. If Fischer's theory is correct, the most fortunate outcome of his investigation might be his own, swift death. As the crimes of the Third Reich turn upon their perpetrators, he and his tiny band of broken colleagues set themselves against a faceless edifice for which no act is unthinkable.
Peenemünde: windswept corner of the Third Reich and birthplace of the space age. Otto Fischer, a severely wounded Luftwaffe officer and former criminal investigator, is summoned to solve a seemingly incomprehensible case: the murder of a leading rocket engineer during a devastating air raid. With only days until the SS assume control of the production of a remarkable new weapon, Fischer must find a motive and perpetrator from among several thousand scientists, technicians, soldiers and forced laborers. As he struggles to get the measure of a secretive, brilliant world in which imagination moves far beyond the limits of technology, what at first appears to be a solitary crime draws him into a labyrinth of conspiracy, betrayal and treason.