As a German historian who lives half the year in the United States and the other half in Germany, I was impressed by Norman Watt’s recently published novel Fanatic, both for its evocative setting on an idyllic American college campus and for the variety of German and German/American topics it presents. These range from the quirky founder of the college himself, who fought in both the German revolution of the mid-nineteenth-century and the American Civil War, his enormous collection of artworks by the great Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer, and his creation of a convoluted puzzle which, over a hundred years later, still has not been solved.
These aspects form the backdrop for the contemporary storyline of Fanatic and its protagonist, a newly-hired professor of German who ends up, step by step, trying to make sense of the many stages of the puzzle—and, simultaneously, of the ins and outs of his own love life. Along the way he learns of a recent and as yet unsolved murder on the campus grounds, and subsequently begins to investigate certain activities of one of his colleagues, who happens to be the son of a Nazi SS officer. This he feels driven to do, even though he realizes that he may be endangering his life by doing so.
All in all, a compelling read!