The Pledge by Frederich Dürrenmatt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pledge by Frederich Dürrenmatt

Swiss fiction

Original title – Das Versprechen

Translator – Joel Agee

Source – personal copy

I move on my german lit month reading to a new to me writer and a book that I have had a while and wanted to read. Frederich Durrenmatt was a multi-talented writer his theatre was often compared to that of Bertolt Brecht he was called the most original theorist. He was a critic of crime fiction and with this book he had worked on a crime script that he felt hadn’t a realistic ending this is the work he wrote as a result of that.as the subtitle goes a requiem for the detective novel.

Matthai had a hard time making senseof that jumbled report, the chief continued. “it was one of his old “clients” calling from Magendorf, a little hole in the wall near Zurich. The man was a peddlar named Von Gunten. Matthai wasn’t really in the mood to take this up this case on his last afternoon on his job. He had already brought his plane ticket, he’d be leaving in three days. But I was away at a conference of police chiefs and wasn’t expected back to the evening.

How Matthai is drawn in the case is by chance and meant his carreer never really ends

The book starts with a crime writer meeting the former head of Zurich Cantonal police who criticized his works as he says Chance plays no role in his works. So the writer then thinks up a new story and that is the main bases of the book that follows lieutenant Matthai. He is sent to find the killer of a small girl in a small town. The girl Gritli Moser was found in the woods killed with a razor. Matthai has to tell the parents about the loss of their small girl  . The crime was reported by von Gunten who found her but he is later convicted of something else and is connected to the two girls that earlier died in a similar way to Griti he is interviewed He then confesses. Matthai is just about to leave when he is drawn in another way by this case that initially then seemed shut as the young girl is buried but there is also the young girl’s drawings in the weeks and days before her death with images that may be known she may have known her killer? Matthai made a promise to get the killer and ends up running a petrol station to finally sort this case out or is it just a wild goose chase for this serial killer.

Back in Magendorf, Matthai met with his first difficulty. The emergency squad’s large van had driven into the village and was waiting for the inspector. The scene of the crim and its immediate vicinty had been carefully searched and cordoned off . Three plainclothes policemaen were hiding in the woods. Their assignment was to observe the passerbys. The rest of the squad was taken back to the city.

The other old crime novel cliche of the killer return ing to the scene of the crime here .

This shows the foibles of crime fiction and that is chance the obvious story Von Gunten fits that old inspector  Morse line that the person that finds the body may also be the killer. There is the picture pf the young girl that leads them in another direction what is the meaning of the hedgehog? What happens when you have got a confession and it was the wrong man it shows how someone can be haunted by that giving it all up to trap this killer to have that petrol station it is a strange twist in this book that shows how far one man will go with his pledge to the mother of the dead child. This is a book that reminds me of Paul auster at times another writer that has taken a different twist in his detective fiction this is a postmodernist crime novel that twists the tales and characters as far as you can. It has been made into a film I haven’t seen the recent us version but I believe it cuts a lot of the framing device out and resets the book in the US. The English version from the 90s seems near to the book and it has Richard E Grant in so I hope to watch that at some point.  Have you read this book? what do you think of the twists and turns in it ?

Murder at the vicarage by Agatha Christie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murder at the vicarage by Agatha Christie

English crime fiction

Source personal copy

When I read the list of books for 1930 online I saw that I had the three I have reviewed this week on my shelves so I decided to read them I usually read all translation but I got chance to revisit two writers I have enjoyed in my gran was a huge Chrisie fan she had all those gory fifties and sixties paperbacks wish I wish I had saved a few when she passed many years ago mine is a retro hardback. I picked this copy up in Devon on my Honeymoon as it is set in the quintessential Devon village which is where Christie grew up and Miss Marple lives.

Griselda is nearly twenty years younger than myself. She is most distractingly orettyand quite incapable of taking anything seriously.She is incompetent in every way, and extremely trying to live with. She treats the parish as a kind of huge joke arranged for her amusement, I have endeavoured to form her mind and failed, I am more than convinced that celinacy is desirable for clergy. I have hinted asmuch to griselda, but she has only laughed,

The vicars wife is very much younger and he worries she may have her eyes elsewhere later on in the book ?

Now I have seen both the tv versions of the book both miss bits from the book which I forgot when I reread this book. The book revolves around the Murder of Colonel Protheroe. He is a churchwarden and wants to see the vicar about a problem in the church accounts the opening is narrated by the Vicar where he says that Prfotheroe is the type of man to make a mountain out of a molehill and very much wants the  ways kept as they are not like the new high chuch curate wants it in the church. So when he is due to meet the vicar at the vicarage and is found dead by a shot in the head. Miss Marple is well placed as she lives next to the vicarage and has been in the garden at the time the shots where heard and saw the comings and goings firstly the Colonels with before the shot and the artist in the vicars garden. The Artist Lawrence is painting a number of ladies in the village the vicars younger wife Griselda who around this time says she has been somewhere but was seen elsewhere?  he is painting the colonel’s daughter who has a huge crush on him and hates the colonel’s current wife. A mysterious woman renting a local house that the colonel may have known an odd acting curate. An archaeologist and his secretary that has been working on the colonel’s grounds. The Vicars maid the spinster next door a Mrs price ridley all could have done it as the vicar said the man dead would make the village a better place! even Miss Marple says there could have been seven suspects who did it who will put their hands up and what time did he die all these set the tale twisting and turning to a shocking ending.

“If miss Marple says she had no pistol with her, you can take it for granted that it is so” I said “If there was the least possibility of such a thing, miss Marple would have been on it like a knife”

“THat’s tru enough. We’d better go and have a look at the studio”

The so-called studio was a mere rough shed with a skylight. There were no windows and the door was the only means of entrance or egress. Satisfied in this score, melchett announced his intention of visiting the vicarage with the inspector.

The chief constable and inspector know MissMarple so respect her insights into the dress the colonels wife was wearing that day!

This is the classic christie mystery in a way a cast of characters an unlikable murder victim that means there is a whole host of possible victims then we have the twists of the crime what time did he die ? was it a shot that Marple heard that killed him ? each means the closer we are getting to the truth. How is the mystery woman and why did Lawrence redding chose this particular village to set himself up as a painter ?why did the archaeologist and his secretary come to the colonel’s land for the dig? when these are answered we get to the bottom of the tale this is a classic book from the golden era of crime that uses a microcosm of a small village to show how easy a turn here and there can have wider effects on people’s lives. A nice final choice for 1930 club wonder where we will end up next time round?

30 for #WITMONTH A Finnish snow white

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found two books in a charity shop last year by this Finnish writer Salla Simukka they were two of a trilogy of thrillers she had written for a YA audience called the Snow white series and may be made into a film and is called the Lisbeth Salander for a teen audience. Have you read any of her books?

Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura

 

Cult X by Fuminori Nakamura

Japanese Crime fiction

Original title – Kyōdan X (教団X)

Translator – Kalau Almony

Source – review copy

I read this a few months ago and decide I have a flick through it today it was one of those books I read and said got do a review and then life and everything got in the way. Anyway, Fuminori Nakamura is one of Japan’s leading crime writers he has won a number of prizes with his books including the Kenzaburo Oe prize one of the biggest book prizes in Japan he has been writing since his early twenties He has had a number of his books Translated into English. The events in this book were inspired by the events that lead up to the Sarin Attack in 1995 in Tokyo and the cult behind it. Strangely as I was reading this in the summer members of that cult were executed in Japan.

“…Cult X?”

What a strange name, Narazuki thought. Like the name of some trashy TV show.

“Have you told the police about this scam?”

“Matsuo-san didn’t want to” Yoshida said, lookinf fed up. “Because of whatever that old connection is between Matsuo-san and Sawatari.I don’t know the details”.

It bega to grow dark outside. Narazaki felt as though the lights inside were growing stronger – manmade lights stretching out everyone’s shadow

When he hears about Cult X he also has a feel of darkness drawing in around him !!

This follows one man as he tries to find his girlfriend. Toru Narazaki girlfriend has disappeared off the face of the earth and he is worried enough in the start to hire a private detective to try and find her. He only turns up that a cult is now connected to one-off her addresses. This is how Toru ends up following what Happened to Ryoko Tachibana also she is known as Rina. Toru has an interest in religion he has been attending talks by a man known as Matsuo.this leads to a dark cult called X which Toru is drawn into as we see the philosophy of its leader through lectures and discussions. She is in the groups compound he needs t get there but behind the fence is a world of a cult with power tri[ps sexual activities  violence and a leader that has lost it and is drawing his followers near the abyss of something that could end their lives but also of a lot of other people as he has brainwashed them so much. This all unfolds nicely as we follow Toru in the rabbit hole of a cult.

The leader was sitting in the dark. At first the woman thought he was sleeping, but then he made a slight movement, as if something small had gotten caught in his thrat. His eyes open briefly.

She examined his face carefully, but the leader closed his eyes again. It was like he had already forgotten the previous moments discomfort.He kept his eyes closed, even though right in front of him were many naked men and woman with only bath towels covering their bodies.

“Today is Monday,” Maeda-Kun said. His voice carried well. He had good posture. He was kind. And he wasn’t the only one – everyone here was kind.

The leader and his naked disciples all isn’t as it seems here.

This book is a writer question what happened with the 1995  Sarin Attacks and the cult and its leader that lead the attack. It is strange I have listened and seen a number of things about cults in the last twelve months. The last series of American Horror story had a cult as it’s storyline this showed how easy it is for ordinary people to get drawn into a cult when they have a few problems in their life. So the fact that Ryoko has a past she hasn’t ever talked about with Toru means this secret made her a perfect target for the cult and their Leader as she was damaged in a WayI also listen to a podcast about the Heavens Gate Cult which liked this showed how the Leaders tend to cherry pick the bits of different philosophies they like and mix them to there own end this is what the first part of the book shows is the ideas behind the cult and shows how when they have been brought by the followers they do the horrific events in the later third of the book which lift that dark curtain of the sex and violence and the abuse of power within the Cult it a slow-burning novel that draws the reader in with the last third that is engrossing and horrifies in equal parts. This is a beautiful book as well Soho has made a real effort in the hardback with the Huge X cut in the hardcover showing the devilish illustrated endpapers in the book.

 

Maigret’s Secret by Georges Simenon

 

Maigret’s secret by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction

Original title –  Une confidence de Maigret

Translator – David watson

Source – personal copy

It has been ten months since I reviewed a Maigret on the blog so when a search for a holiday read, I choose the latest of the series of books that Penguin has been bringing out over the last few years. This is one of the later books. This is slightly different to the other books I have read as Maigret himself is retelling the events of the case many years after the event. There is still a number of Maigret books to come I will be dipping in over the years to come I am sure not in order unfortunately but as they appeal to me.

A longer silence. He emptied his pipe and took another one from his pocket, which he slowly filled, seeming to caress the briar.

I remember one case, not so long ago .. Did you follow the josset affair ?

“The name rings a bell”

“There was a lot in the papers about it, but the true story insofar as there is a true story was never told”

It was very unnusual for him to talk about a case he had been involved in. Occasionally, at Quai des Orfevres, among colleagues, some famous case or some difficult investigation might be mentioned, but it was always a passing allusion.

Magriet starts talking about Josset and his case with him a rare event.

Maigret is at a dinner party one evening when he starts telling his fellow guests a story of an old case that since it happened had troubled him.The case is that of one Adrien Josset. He is a man that came from a modest background. But thanks to his wives wealth gets a position which gives him a good standard of living. He is also having an affair with his secretary Annette a much younger woman than his wife. So when after a night out with his mistress where he bumps into Annette’s father and somehow says he will marry her. So when he returns and later his wife turns up dead he is, of course, the number one suspect. But over the interviews with Josset  Maigret feels this man is innocent and believes his story. But the problem is the case is quickly seized upon by the press and when events outside the case lead to a backlash against Josset and puts him in the frame in the publics Eye what is Maigret to do, this is what he expains over the course of two evening to his friends at a dinner party.

Certain details of the case were etched more sharply than others in Maigret’s memory. Even years later he could recall the particular taste and smell of the rain shower in the Rue Caulaincourt as keenly as a childhood memory.

It was six thirty in the evening, and when the rain started it did not obscure the sun, already red above the rooftops. The sky remained ablaze, the window shimmering with the reflected light, and only a siingle pearl grey clud, slightly darker at the centre and glowing at its edges, floated over the streets, as light as a ballon.

Maigret recalls visitng a scene involved in the crime and remembers it years later.

This is different to the over  Maigret as it shows the foibles of the man. But it maybe is quite a modern story as it shows the power of the press in forming public opinion. This happens more so now than it used to I can think of a number of cases over the last few years where the press has driven public opinon in the case. This is shown to great effect in the book. Maigret is shown as a fair man like he is in the other books but one that can also dwell on events that have happened. This is also a classic what might have ben in a way one of those case that seems open and shut when it starts.

The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

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The mystery of the three orchids by Augusto De Angelis

Italian crime novel

Original title – Il misterodelletreorchidee

Translator – Jill Foulston

Source – Library

Well I do the second from Pushkin Vertigo series tonight and this time we are in Italy and one from the classic Italian series of Giallo novels those old yellow bound books that also sparked the films . Augusto De Angelis started of writing a spy novel inspired by the writing of Joseph Conrad and then a few years later he wrote his first crime novel after that he came on Inspector DE Vincenzi as his main character in fifteen novels , he even was made in the 1970’s to a tv series by the Italian broadcaster RAI .

Slowly and cautiously , she approached the bed .This was a big mess , and on the day of a show too. Why , though had Christina O’brian fainted in her room with a man’s body on her bed when she should have been down in the showrooms watching the models and studying her clients reactions ?

Madame Firmino could now see , below those wide-open eyes , the rest of the dead man’s face. A handsome youth, almost a boy, with fine, perfectly regular features. Long black hair thrown back and naturally a bit messy now .

The first murder victim in the bed as a show went on and with an orchid by him what does it mean .

The book follows a series of Murders the first is at a fashion house .The victim is found with an orchid now DE Vincenzi  is there a body on the bed upstairs at a Milan Fashion house . The owner of the fashion house Christina is acting oddly , he ex husband is also there but why . is he still there as another body and Orchid turn up. then De Vicenzi  is not a clue man no he is one of these detectives that sees the whole  thing as a puzzle of psychologically to be broken up and assembled as he goes from here to there .

De Vincenzi saw the body, Christina and the orchid. By now he was used to seeing bodies and women – how many inquests had he racked up, each with at least one body and always lots of women ? – but less used to seeing orchids though he loved them quite a bit more

So her stopped to look at the flower for longer and with greater pleasure. An  unnatural flower made of flesh, born of rotting slime , grown in a tropical atmosphere

Why an orchid these exotic flowers are always hard to grow  and keep

This isn’t a complex crime ,their isn’t a lot of too and froing no, this is a simple plot .I was reminded of those great american  crime radio dramas where the crime is all wrapped neatly up in half an Hour . Philo Vance is mention on the cover , but I was thinking  some one like rocky Jordan for the exotic nature like that it felt ,more like Milan set via america than Italian milan  or Inspector thorne  as a straight forward crime solver in mould of Vicenzi  or Maigret  from those forties dramas which of course came out of the pulp fiction  rather like the start of the Giallo series which was mostly american crime novel . There is also the fact that De Angelis at the time he write the book was falling very foul as being seen as an Anti fascist by the fascist Italian government of the time . Like the Italian crime novel of the time I have read I will have vengance by Maurico De Giovanni , which also owed much in its writing to American pulp fiction also set in the 30’s in Naples instead of Milan the setting for this book , both have the undercurrent of fascism creeping into there world .

The Final Bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

 

 

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The Final bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

Moroccan fiction

Original title – al-Rihan al-akhir

Translator – Jonathan Smolin

Source – review copy

This is the second from The new AUC impress Hoopoe fiction I was sent late last year . Abdelilah Hamdouchi is a Morrocan writer of crime fiction he was one of the first writers of this genre to be translated into English. He has written 8 novels and also written for television and cinema were all his novels have been made into Dramas. He lives in Rabat in  Morocco.

As for Sofia’s body, it was lying on the bed drenched in blood. Her nightgown was open at the waist. Her right arm was extended as if she wanted to grab something. The left hung down to the ground. She was lying on the edge of the bed and looked like she was about to fall off, but death had frozen her in this position. Alwaar stared at her pale face and understood the meaning of the inspector’s ambiguous smile.He looked for Boukrisha among the other cops in thee room.

“The young guy downstairs , that’s her husband ?”

Alwaar sees the dead seventy year old woman and on way to her room meet her thirty year old husband.

Well this book The final bet claims to have been the first Arabic crime novel to be translated to English.I have actually the original edition of this book when it came out a few years ago sat on my shelves , IO see the translation may have been update in this new edition. The book follows a murder the woman whom is murdered is a french woman living in Morocco , she married a few years earlier Othman a Moroccan who was forty years his wife Sofia’s Junior. He own son is even older than her husband and he is also about when the crime is committed . Now Othman has fallen for a woman more his own age since him and Sofia married Nameea , he get very little time to sneak out and meet his mistress. Sophia is ever watching so a walk out with the dog or a trip to the shop are the short snatches of time they capture. It is one of these meetings late one night Othman returns from his meeting to find his wife stabbed in her chest.. This enter the Moroccan Police in the form of a detective Alwaar and the inspector he reports too Boukrisha. They almost from the start put the crime as one cause by the husband , and blame him. Even thou he could give an alibi , he tries to get more help from an old friend who is now an up and coming Lawyer that has been waiting for a chance to show how the police can be wrong sometimes.

For alwaar, this was the most difficult stage of any investigation. He’d look for what the evidence was telling him and read from every angle before moving to the next step. This made Alwaar move slowly, testing the patience of his assistants, who were always standing around, awaiting orders.

he finally got down to buisnees.He walked around the beside table and, with a cloth wrapped around his hand opened the top drawer, taking out a box lined with silk. He opened the lid and found it full of jewelry: Gold earings, a diamond necklace, and a ring with a sparkling jewel.He immediately ruled out theft as a motive for the murder.

The point I felt Alwaar is part Maigret but this also point Othman is the main suspect!

This is a short Book  as i would say one of those evening reads . It is an interesting insight into a new police force . We haven;t had many books looking at law and order in the Arabic world, as this was one of the first crime novels from the arabic world to break out. I wonder how many more in the coming years we will see as we see the Police in this part of the world like it is here in Morocco has changed over time  This may be owes a debt to Simenon in a way the lead detective Alwaar is maybe an homage to the French detective , even down to having a scene at home like we often see in the Maigret novels. What on the surface from the police point of view as we could see the young man killing his rich much older wife is so much more it turns out.I enjoyed this it was an enjoyable crime novel with a new setting and angles in it .

 

 

Hello , hello from Soho to Finland dead bodies are dead bodies

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I started this weeks as a change and I had two already and couldn’t justify get another from the British library crime classics and this book a wartime murder in soho fits perfectly an easy reading break from the recent books I have read which include two books by Nobel winner Patrick Modiano . The book is about missing plans and a dead well-known figure in Soho life .I was remind some what of the Rathbone Holmes films with this book .The sort of books and films that sold well in the war years .

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Then as a by chance this arrived yesterday from Finnish writer Kati Hiekkapelto the second book featuring her detective Anna Fekete the first from Orenda books thou . Anne and her husband both work for the police and one is investigating a murder with an au pair as the suspect the other illegal gang of immigrants .LIke a scream in soh a cast of suspects from outside the country .That is the only comparison I can make but I am neck high into crime this week .A welcome change of pace and two interesting books from different times and places .

Do you use crime sometimes as a break from Lit book ?

Innocence or murder on steep street by Heda Margolius Kovály

Innocence or murder on steep street by HedaMargolius  Kovály

Czech fiction

Original title –Nevina

Translator – Alex Zucker

Source – review copy

Tonight, tonight, I say goodbye
To everyone who loves me
Stick it to my enemies tonight
Then I disappear

Bathe my path in shining light
Set the dials to thrill me
Every secret has its price
This one’s set to kill

Too loose, too tight
Too dark, too bright
A lie, the truth
Which one should I use?
If the lie succeeds
Then you’ll know what I mean
When I tell you I have secrets to attend

Crime scene no1 by the afghan whigs is perfect match dark and brooding music like this book

 

Well today sees me in Eastern europe for Woman in translation month and a writer best known for her Memoir under a cruel star a memoir of her time in Auschwitz during the war . Well she wrote this novel in the years after the war when The Czech republic fell under soviet control , at the time she wrote the book it wasn’t allowed to be published and luckily a copy of the book managed to be saved to finally see the light of day in the 1980’s in Germany .Heda worked for many years translating book from English into Czech on of the writers she translated a lot of was the crime writer Raymond Chandler which is a obvious influence on this book .

“Believe me , I know .You can’t keep a secret at the Horizon .Anyway , if she did find somebody new  everyone’d badmouth her for runnin’ around on her man in the clink ,Meanwhile if the shoe was on the other foot and she was the one locked up her husband would find another girl in a week and people’d say

Helena and Karel he worked for the government and she had a better job before she went to the Horizon cinema .

The book revolves around a murder a young boy is found dead in a cinema and the staff of this cinema the Horizon  , the first section of the book is told from the perspective of on of the usherettes Helena .this first section tells what happened and then see some of the characters that crop up in the book like  people working in the cinema , the husband of Helena , Karel whom is in trouble with the authorities . the last two-thirds of the book are told by a nameless observer that watches why the boy was killed , who works for the government in the cinema , what really is happening ? which usher did it or was it them ? As we see the inspector trying to get to the bottom of it all .

The fat man hunched over in his chair and thought a moment

“Steep street is practically made for a knife ” he said .His voice was slow with sleepiness and husky , perhaps with the memory of the darkness on steep street .He laid a palm on his eyes and rubbed them as if trying to erase the sight from his mind .

I loved piece like this as they could have jumped of a hard-boiled american novel ,she caught that style of writing so well and Alex Zucker has retained in his translation .

 

This is an homage to two things firstly to Czech lit there is tones of Kafka here it is hard to avoid the feeling of Helena falling into one of those  Kafka like rabbit holes here as things started to fall into place.As every one isn’t what they first seems  and it is very easy to get caught up in the government web that is being woven  . The other is homage to Chandler and that style of crime novel , lots nods to american crime novels .The female character are like Chandlers but to me are maybe more rounded in the writing . There is feeling red herring and such here . The ushers whom fall suspect of the death of the young boy each have a connection and could be the killer . This is a book for lovers of both hard-boiled crime or Kafkaesque fiction . We are lucky it managed to avoid being destroyed by the censors .

Have you a favourite book in translation influenced by american fiction , but still keeping it identity ?

 

Two new arrivals a Czech classic and French Noir

I’ve had a bad week really , some really bad news .So a couple of books arriving has brightened a morning up to what is a sad time at Winston’s tower .

innocence by Heda Margolius Kovaly

First is a Czech crime novel the only novel from a writer better known for her non fiction work the biography  Under a cruel star .Heda Margolius Kovály was a Czech writer and translator , her book about the war and what followed from being a Jew in the Czechoslovakia . she lived in exile from the late 1950’s onwards ,where she worked as a translator translated many books from English to Czech including Raymond Chandler . I mention Chandler as John Banville has compared this book to his work .Set in Prague it follows the investigation into a murder at a cinema and the women that work as ushers in it .This is also translated by Alex Zucker .

boxes by Pascal Garnier

The second arrival today was Boxes the latest from Gallic books noir series , that has been putting out the novels of the Late Pascal Garnier .This one follows Brice and Emma a couple that have just moved into a new house . Their neighbour Blanche lives next to the grave yard and she says Brice looks like her Late father .

What books have you received recently ?

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