The second novel in my Berlin through the ages themed read takes place in 1946, just after the war, when Berlin lay in ruins. In fact, the depiction of Berlin at that time is so good, that I would award The Spring of Kasper Meier an honorary membership of German Trümmerliteratur, were it within my gift to do so!
They arrived at the back of the Reich Chancellery and stopped on the corner of Voßstraße. Standing side by side they looked across the barren grounds that had once been the Chancellery’s garden. surrounded by thin barbed wire in a meagre effort to deter souvenir hunters,it was now a strange landscape of charred trees, scrap metal and fallen stone. The concrete masses of the exploded bunker, with their intensely black shadows, appeared like a geometric puzzle – an upturned cube, a cylinder, a cone. Behind it, the Chancellery itself had retained only a few solid buildings, lne rooms amid rows of ruined walls, like broken teeth.
in the midst of this desolation, Kasper Meier is eking out a living on the black market as he tries to feed his elderly father and himself. His network of contacts is such that there is very little that escapes him or that he cannot find out should he have need of it. He soon does. Into his life walks Eva, who is trying to trace a British soldier. Meier, who wants to keep away from both the politics of post-war Berlin, and any association with the wave of murders of occupying forces, refuses to engage, only to find himself threatened with blackmail. For he, like everyone else, has secrets, which in the wrong hands could spell disaster.
Thus begins his search, not only for the British soldier, but, also for Eva’s mysterious employer, the ever pervasive Frau Beckmann. Kasper may kid himself that he is seeking to protect Eva, but there is a fair dose of self-preservation in his motivation. This path is fraught with danger for the occupying forces are hostile. Frau Beckmann also has two protective protegés, the twins Hans and Lena. More chilling psychopaths I have yet to encounter.
There is a sticky web of deceit at the heart of the plot, which is full of page-turning suspense. Yet the real strength lies in the the historical detail. Fergusson’s interest in the city of this period was sparked by the scars on buildings that remain visible to this day. Four years of resultant research has enabled him to recreate both the everyday and the alien, hostile and dangerous world that Berlin of 1946 undoubtedly was.