When Angela Merkel gets home from saving the world, she likes to decompress with a glass of Italian red and a gentle crime drama such as Midsomer Murders.
Now, in a belated plot twist, the German chancellor is the heroine of a new novel detailing her post-chancellery career as a hobby detective. Get off the stage, Miss Marple, it’s time for Miss Merkel.
Author David Safier says the idea for the book, already No 1 in the sales charts, arose from a freewheeling conversation with his agent about Merkel’s future. Around the same time he stumbled upon an episode of Colombo on television and a spark was lit. Everyone he told liked the idea, and writing the book last year proved as welcome a pandemic distraction for him as it is for German readers now.
Safier’s theory: the current Covid-19 uncertainty, compounded by the chancellor’s feuding political successors, has left many Germans nostalgia for the Merkel era before it even ends.
“The great thing for me is that Merkel is both omnipresent – we’ve known her for decades – yet we know almost nothing of her life apart from the crumbs her press office gives out, like how she likes to bake,” he says. “That gave me great freedom to write a friendly book with her as the heroine. In her political career she’s often been underestimated, just like Miss Marple in the Agatha Christie novels, so it seemed a good fit.”
Without giving too much away, Miss Merkel’s first case combines classic whodunnit features – the country pile, the doddery assistant and a denial-filled denouement – with modern twists such as gender politics and social media influencers. This being Germany, it’s no harm to add a Nazi twist.
For comic relief we have a stressed bodyguard and a pug, bought for Miss Merkel as a retirement gift, named Putin, whose active bowels prove a full-time job for the baggie-wielding ex-chancellor.
“I’m used to clearing up after Putin’s muck,” she sighs stoically.
Safier is one of Germany’s most popular writers, with more than five million books sold in 50 countries. Before tackling Angela Merkel, he scored hits with books about the Warsaw Ghetto, William Shakespeare and even a reborn saviour in Jesus Loves Me.
Even after three weeks at No 1, he hasn’t dared send a copy yet to the real Mrs Merkel – he says he can’t think of an appropriate dedication. “If it ever gets on to her desk she’ll either smirk briefly or roll her eyes, saying ‘This is all I need’.”
Safier already has plans for a second Miss Merkel mystery but is making no plans after that. Perhaps follow the example of James Patterson and Bill Clinton, and co-author with the ex-chancellor?
“If she’s interested,” he laughs, “I stand ready.”