The New Detective
by Peter Steiner
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Pub Date 05 Dec 2023 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2023
Willi Geismeier thought he'd faced the worst of humanity on the battlefield in World War I, but when he returns to Munich he is drawn into an investigation that proves to be just as chilling.
Munich, 1913. Nineteen-year-old Willi Geismeier is showing great promise as a rookie detective in the Munich police department when he is sent to fight in World War I. After narrowly surviving the horrors of the conflict, Willi returns home, where the challenges he faces are just as grave.
The Spanish flu rips through Munich with devastating consequences. Willi, now back in the police force, finds himself investigating an insurance scam, missing drugs and the mysterious death of a prisoner. Chilling links emerge between all three, and Willi finds himself facing a 'scientific' killer and the rising fascists determined to stop him in his tracks . . .
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Average rating from 12 members
The book is about Detective Willi Geismeier who, for the most part, investigates a separate cases of fraud and missing drugs that appear to be inextricably linked and hint at a wider conspiracy. All of this is happening post WW1 and includes the early beginnings of the Nazi Party.
I really enjoyed how the case he's investigating links to what was happening in real-life Germany following the war: the rise of nationalism, an interest in eugenics and the "purification" of the German people. The author uses this well to create an interesting and engaging mystery that had me hooked.
My only criticism of the book is that I didn't feel like it had the satisfying conclusion I expect in a detective story, though this is probably because of the historical context of the book.
Overall, I thought it was well written and developed at a nice pace. I really like the protagonist who is willing to stand up for justice no matter the cost to himself. I would definitely recommend to all, even those with a minor interest in history.
Thank you NetGalley and Severn House for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.
The "New Detective" was a highly entertaining and gripping historical mystery.
1913, Munich. Nineteen-year-old Willi Geismeier is showing great promise as a rookie detective in the Munich police department when he is sent to fight in World War I. After narrowly surviving the horrors of the conflict, Willi returns home, where the challenges he faces seem just as grave.
The Spanish flu or 'Grippe' rips through Munich with devastating consequences and Willi, now back in the police force, finds himself investigating an insurance scam, missing drugs and the mysterious death of a prisoner. As chilling links emerge between all three, Willi confronts a gro-tesque scientific theory and a dangerous ideology taking root in society that could lead him to a killer, but there are those who are just as determined to stop him in his tracks.
I think that the book should make part of a great series and it reminds me of a Golden Age De-tectiv4e series by the late Sir Basil Thomson which I enjoyed very much.
Thank you NetGalley and Severn House for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own
Peter Steiner's The New Detective is a fascinating read. It's published by Severn House, which specializes in mysteries, and, yes, there is some mystery to it, but more than a mystery, it's a piece of well-crafted historical fiction exploring life in Germany before, during, and after WWI.
In this review, I'm not intending to discuss the mystery aspect of the novel. I want to discuss the matter-of-fact way that Steiner and Willi Geismeier, his central character, show us how easily we can convince ourselves that wrongs are right and that inhumanity can be a humanitarian act.
At the novel's start, Willi is beginning his employment as a police officer. Not long after that, he's drafted into the German Army in WWI, is gassed, is temporarily blinded and left with a long-term significant loss of vision. He returns to Germany as a civilian gradually making his way back to working as a police detective.
Willi is an even-tempered, matter-of-fact man with deep beliefs about justice—but he never evinces these beliefs through acts of temper or violence. He just calmly makes his way through the world, pursuing justice and sticking with cases that more politicized members of the police and government want swept under the rug. During his second stint in the police force he sticks with a case that he's been ordered to drop more than once for political reasons. The potential guilty individuals are not just powerful, but public heroes who also convinced of their own rightness—and determined to differentiate between "true" Germans and other inferior "races."
The writing style, like Willi himself, is straight-forward and simple. The book moves along quickly because one doesn't have to wrestle with difficult or flowery prose. One just wrestles with the growing insanity of public opinion—which Willi finds senseless and calmly ignores.
There's no magic denouement at the end of the novel. Some good things happen. Some terrible things happen. Most importantly, Willi remains who he is, an individual who never gets blinded by the zeitgeist of the world he lives in, who walks his own path, even to his own detriment.
In a time when political discourse is more and more at odds with certain basic values like honesty, generosity, and kindness, Willi is a heroic non-hero. A man whose ordinariness turns him into a quiet response to a world becoming louder and louder in its compromises, justifications, and unfairnesses.
I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.
Peter Steiner’s historical crime series centred around Munich detectice Willi Geismeier has taken an interesting course. The first book in the series The Good Cop was set in the early 1920s and dealt with the rise of Nazism. The next two books, The Constant Man and The Inconvenient German are set after Geismeiser’s parting ways with the Munich police force, the latter in the final years of World War 2. In The New Detective, Steiner gives readers Geismeier’s origin story. The book opens with Geismeier’s first day on the job as a policeman and charts his way into becoming a detective, including the impact of World War I and its aftermath on his life and his career.
The first section of The New Detective is set in 1914. Willi Geismeier has joined the police force and is paired with a corrupt officer who seeks to have him embarrassed, beaten up or corrupted. None of these eventuate and instead Geismeier finds himself investigating a suspicious death. When no one seems to want him to investigate he goes off and becomes a detective. He discovers the killer and the victim’s connection to corruption, just as the First World War breaks out and he is called up to fight. Geismeier returns from the War injured and is then confronted at home by the Spanish Flu which is tearing through German society. After many personal travails, Geismeier returns to the police force where he starts to investigate both an insurance fraud and the theft of medical supplies, two cases connected through a man currently in prison.
The New Detective is as much a thriller as a historical procedural. Steiner reveals the killer and his motives reasonably early so that he can delve into them and reveal their powerful connections. The tension then comes from Geismeier pushing against political forces as he slowly makes his way to the truth. And those forces, even as far back as 2019, were obsessed with German racial purity. Through this story, Steiner explores the ideology that underpinned the formation of the Nazi party. While there are plenty of theories about the rise of German nationalism connected to its loss in the First World War, Steiner is interested in this existing thread of genetic supremacism.
Steiner uses the crime and thriller tropes effectively to illuminate a time and place and to explore the development of a murderous ideology that drove the world to war. While readers of the other books might find the genesis of a character that they are already familiar with, The New Detective’s place in Geismeier’s timeline makes it easy to read as a standalone, and may well encourage those who haven’t read them to seek out the rest.