Ms. Stangier, with your debut novel “Unscrupulous Power” you deal with a problem that has been bothering you for several years. What is the plot about?
The central character of my novel is Marla Richter, who recently became heiress to a historic villa and a large fortune. Instead of giving herself peace, she accepts challenges in life. When a young relative who works as the secretary of EU MP Olaf Gessner suddenly disappears, she becomes an unwilling investigator and is confronted with a political scandal of gigantic proportions.
The plot of my novel is inspired by real events that occurred in the EU institutions in the late 1990s. As a politically interested citizen, I was deeply outraged by the events that led to the resignation of the EU Commission under Jaques Santer in 1999. So I took up the pen and wrote a crime novel in which the scandals of the time were dealt with in a literary way.
What doubts plague Marla Richter during her research to uncover these scandals?
As soon as Marla Richter received news of her relative's disappearance, she began her research in Brussels. The first suspicions of a more general nature arise when the head of the security service, Philipp Guiader, is set on her, who knows how to intimidate her extremely. So he mercilessly confronts her with the Brussels gay patent and leather scene in order to show her how her ex-husband is now living out the sexuality he denied during his marriage.
But apart from her and Aunt Greta, no one knows that Marla's divorced husband is homosexual and that he abused her marriage and Marla's love in order to appear middle-class. It is all the more questionable how Guiader knew about it. Did he gain access to Marla's health insurance file and knowledge of her psychiatric treatment?
What contributes to substantiating the suspicions?
Alarmed by press articles, Marla has to realize that outrageous things are happening within the EU Commission. When she finds evidence of this that the late MP Gessner kept in the secret compartment of his desk, she is able to convince the well-known German journalist Hassbach to search the Brussels jungle with her and expose the MP's heart attack as a murder. In the showdown of the story, Rufus and Guiader prove to be saviors in dire need.
A controversial figure is Philipp Guiader, the head of the security service in the EU Parliament.
Yes, exactly. Philipp Guiader gives the impression of a typical macho man and is the perfect choice as head of the security service in the EU Parliament. He extends his elbows and intimidates whenever it seems appropriate. But he also carries a shocking secret within him. He lost his wife and both sons in a car accident and blames himself for it. He had promised to take the car in for service. And refrain from doing it. Therefore, safety has become his top priority.
When Marla turns away from him at the end of this novel, his life falls apart again while she convinces herself that she can forget him. The reader will have to discover his role in the murder case, whether good or bad, for himself.
As a writer, what appeal do you make to readers?
The purpose of this book is aimed at readers who are generally concerned with the topic of right and wrong. So with exactly the theme that underlies all crime novels in many variations. Due to the political background of the fictitious crime described here, it may be possible to expand this circle of people and reach all those who are alert and critical about politics and its interconnections with the economy.
I am addressing those who appreciate a now experienced investigator like Marla Richter. A woman who always throws herself into explosive investigations and who at the same time celebrates being a woman.
What are your plans for serial novels?
Marla Richter, Philipp Guiader, Aunt Greta and their Osnabrück old hippie shared apartment are set to continue.
Today we are concerned with the issue of fraud and abuse of power not only in business, but also in the church. Tax evasion on a large scale, unfortunately often legal, is as important to me as the issue of money laundering. Manipulation, political hypocrisy and breach of trust are the aspects that will fuel my next novels.
Many scandals have already been brought to light. And more scandals are being revealed. Someday. Guaranteed.
The interview was conducted by Christian Leeck. Machine translated from German.
Wuppertal, February 2023.