Work in Progress:
Lüdke's Game (working title)- the next Max Becker novel
June 1986 and retired Max is visited by the daughter of an old friend, British spy, Diana Murdoch. He learns that Diana has died and her daughter Sylvia as come to find out more about her mother's hidden past and her relationship with the Berlin detective. She is particularly interested in an old case that her mother refers to as Lüdke's Game. Inviting her to stay Max tells her the story of the case that struck to the very heart of Max's world and was the most personal of all his investigations. The novel, set mostly in Berlin, is split between scenes in June 1986 and early 1961.
Extracts from the novel:
'It’s just after 8am when he arrives at the West bank of the Teltowkanal under the Ernst-Keller-Brücke. He is met by Kommisar Felix Grenz of the Berlin Wasserschutzpolizei. Paul and Felix know one another well, bodies in the numerous Berlin waterways a common occurrence. “Hey Paul,” he says shaking hands, “one of our units was cruising south and spotted the boy, he’s down here strung up under the bridge, definitely suspicious. His hands are tied and I can’t see how he’d have got there on his own.”
They walk side-by-side, Paul asking, “when did your unit last pass this way?”
Felix replies, “yesterday but much later in the day, say 4 pm.”
Paul glances at his watch, “so about 16 hours ago. You’re sure that the body wasn’t here then and they could have missed it?”
Felix shakes his head, “sure, my guys wouldn’t miss something like.”
Paul says, “okay, that will help with the timings.”
They stop just short of the hanging body. The boy is hanging by a length of stout rope, his hands tied behind his back, his shoes and socks missing, a large damp patch on his trousers around his groin and on his torso just a light shirt. His face is mottled with red spots, his blackened tongue slightly protruding between his teeth and his head thrust forward at an acute angle his chin on his chest. Paul walks around the body, the boys feet level with is face and he notes they are dirty, like he’d walked barefoot. The rope runs through and over a metal beam the far end tied off to a tree.
Felix says, “what do you think?”
Paul looks at him . “I think I agree with you, Felix, he didn’t do this to himself.”'
'For a moment they are silent. He runs his finger down the outside of his glass drawing a line through the beads of condensation and shuts his eyes, thinking. She waits. After a moment he says, “you know some cases are forgettable lost in time passing like ships in the night,” he pauses a moment, and chuckles, “I don’t know, is that a good simile? Anyway, not that case! I remember it like it was yesterday. To begin with, it was just a few strange but inconsequential events. The type of thing that puzzles you but does not worry you. For example, left on the front step of the house was a package containing a bouquet of dried flowers and a card with the message ‘sorry for your loss!’. Then Heike’s bicycle was stolen: the lock expertly picked and left behind. A few days later the bike was returned with a card attached. The card had a black background with a red heart on it, you know, like a love heart. We thought that perhaps a boy fancied her and was playing silly games. Then Anna mislaid her car keys; had them at work and swore they were on her desk. A while later Markus and his friend were walking home from school when a car pulled up alongside them and stopped to ask directions. The boys assisted the woman driver and just before she drove off she said, ‘are you Kommisar Becker’s son?’ and when Markus said he was, she added, ‘remember me to him, will you? It’s Holdine.’ I plumbed the depths of my memory but couldn’t recall knowing anyone by that name.” He pauses and takes a drink.
She asks, “over what sort of time period did these things occur?”
He shrugs and replies, “about three or four months.”
She says, “then what?”
He leans forward, his blue-grey, clear eyes, looking directly at her, and says, “and then things got much darker and I cursed myself that I couldn’t place Holdine.”'