12 January 2008

Schützenfest in Adelaide - German crime fiction

We are off to the Schützenfest today. Lovely weather- mid 20s - and my family plays in the Klemzig Oompah band. See more at Schützenfest website.

It occurred to me though how little German crime fiction I have read - almost none really - so perhaps people can suggest some I can look out for.

I know there are writers of German crime and mystery fiction because when I was last in Germany I visited a number of bookshops looking for books in English, of which there were very few. But the crime sections were always very large, some translated from English, but obviously lots of German writers too. Perhaps they just don't get translated into English.

So what have I read?
Last year oz_mystery_readers discussed THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD by John Le Carre. Not German I know, but about the cold war days, before the wall came down. I have been to Germany both before and after the Berlin Wall came down. Two years ago prosperity and commercialism were beginning to seep into the east.
Regarded as a classic in spy thrillers. Alec Leamas, for 4 years head of British espionage in Berlin, loses yet another double agent, when a spy crossing from East Berlin is shot by the border guards. He returns to London a broken man and Control offers him a final chance, one last task, to get back at Mundt, the head of East German espionage whom he holds responsible for the lost agents. Leamus has to appear to be discarded in order to become attractive to East German intelligence and open to defection. The story in this relatively short novel has so many twists and turns that you don’t really see what will happen at the end until it actually happens, and then you understand that this is where everything was leading all the time.

A couple of years ago we discussed STRAIGHT INTO DARKNESS by Faye Kellerman. Again not a German writer I know.
Axel Berg is an Inspektor in Munich's newly formed Mordkommission. The year is 1929 and the Austrian Adolf Hitler is on the rise. He leads those who want to rid Germany of degenerates, Jews, Communists. The police force that Berg belongs to is underpaid and corrupt and ill equipped to deal with the growing Brown Shirt menace, young drunken hooligans who are manipulated by Hitler and muder and attack 'degenerates'. Lustmord — the joy of murder. The terrifying concept seems apt for the brutal slaying of a beautiful young society wife dumped in the vast English Garden. Homicide inspector Axel Berg is horrified by the crime...and disturbed by the artful arrangement of the victim's clothes and hair — a madman's portrait of death. Berg's superiors demand quick answers and a quick arrest: a vagrant, the woman's husband, anyone who can be demonized will do. When a second body is discovered, the city erupts into panic, the unrest fomented by the wild-eyed, hate-mongering Austrian Adolf Hitler and his Brownshirt party of young thugs. Berg can trust no one as he relentlessly hunts a ruthless killer, dodging faceless enemies and back-alley intrigue, struggling to bring a fiend to justice before the country — and his life — veer straight into darkness.

A couple of years ago I reviewed BROTHER GRIMM by Craig Russell, interesting because it was published simultaneously in English and German, as, I think, at least one later book was.
A girl's body has turned up on a Hamburg beach with a note concealed in her hand. The note gives her name, that of a 13 year old who went missing on her way home from school 3 years earlier. But it is not the same girl. Fabel has worked this out even before her parents come to identify the body and confirm his suspicions. Then two more bodies turn up, posed at a picnic table in the woods, also with notes concealed in their hands. The notes say Hansel and Gretel, in the same tiny, obsessively neat writing.
For English-language readers BROTHER GRIMM is basically a police procedural in a different setting. There are a few differences in the police hierarchy and methods but basically I think this is a book that could be set anywhere. Having said that, great pains have been taken to relate to the German audience. The book was released simultaneously in English and as a German translation. The setting of BROTHER GRIMM is very Germanic. I don't think I will ever look at Grimm's fairy tales in quite the same way again. It helps if the reader has a passing knowledge of the best-known of them.

And I have to mention.. one of the first books I ever wrote a 'proper' review for
THE MASK OF ATREUS by A.J. Hartley
There are really two beginning points for this thriller/mystery. In the dying days of World War Two, a German tank convoy escorting a truck is intercepted by an American platoon. In the skirmish that follows most of the Germans are killed and the rest flee leaving the truck behind. Inside the truck is a single crate stencilled with the German eagle and swastika. The contents of this crate are pivotal to the rest of the story. The story then leaps to the present day. At 3 am Deborah Miller, curator of a small private museum in Atlanta, Georgia, is awoken by her third strange phone call for the night. This one sends her hurrying back to the museum which she had left only just after midnight after a successful promotional evening. At the museum, in a room she did not even know existed, she finds the body of Richard Dixon, her mentor and the museum's founder and director. On the shelves around the room is a treasure trove of what seem to be genuine Mycenaean antiquities. The reader unravels the mystery, essentially the story of why Richard was killed, in THE MASK OF ATREUS through Deborah's eyes, travelling to Greece and Russia, patching together an incredible story.

So what can you add to my TBF (to be found) list? Not that I need more to read, you understand.

11 comments:

Marg said...

I used to love going to Schutzenfest. I have no idea if they even have anything similar here!

Maxine said...

Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner was one of my favourites of 2007. It is set in Finland but the author is German.

Two authors I have not read but get a lot of praise on Euro Crime are Helene Thurston (The Torso) and Friedrich Glauser -- but I think he was Swiss even though he wrote in German.

Kerrie said...

Helene Tursten I think is Swedish.
I have read THE TORSO and the one that came before it, DETECTIVE INSPECTOR HUSS.

I've got Friedrich Glauser on my list to hunt down.
Both came to my attention from The Dtectives Beyond Borders blog.

Of course on TV there is always Inspector Rex (more like a kids show though) and Derrick which is no longer on here but we watched for a long time.

Kerrie said...

Thanks for the ICE MOON recommendation Maxine

Peter said...

I read a superb story by a German writer named Gunter Gerlach in the Passport to Crime collection. It was deadpan, funny, a bit like Glauser with a slapstick touch, and I would love to read more by him. Jakob Arjouni's novels focus on the plight of Turkish Germans and gastarbeiter.

Two German crime-fiction blogs might help: Krimi-Couch at http://www.krimi-couch.de/ and Internationale Krimis at http://krimileser.wordpress.com/
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Kerrie said...

I'd love to be able to read (in English) http://www.krimi-couch.de/ Peter. Looks really interesting
I see THE BROKEN SHORE (Peter Temple) becomes available in German in January - I think that's what the link at the bottom of the page says.

http://krimileser.wordpress.com/ has tantalising bits in English

I find your links to various short stories interesting too. I've almost stopped reading them, and I really need to get started on them again as I do enjoy them.

Peter said...

Kerrie: Both those sites welcome comments in English (I can't read more than a few words of German.) In any case, it's interesting to see how much more translated crime fiction seems to available in German than in English.
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter said...

Kerrie, I don't know Helene Tursten's publication history in Australia, but she has an additional novel translated into English and available in the U.S. and Canada: The Glass Devil.
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

Maxine said...

Looks as if you are right about Thurston, Kerrie-- sorry about that.
I just had a look at Wikipedia, and they list 14 german crime fic authors.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:German_crime_fiction_writers

This seems a very small number compared with the number of Swedish, Italian, etc authors.
The only one on Wikipedia's list I've read is Jan Costin Wagner. It is jolly good, though -- and very short ;-)

Euro Crime said...

Hi Kerrie,

I've just uploaded a very enthusiastic review (by Fiona Walker) of The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr which she rates as highly as Girl with Dragon Tattoo :-).

Ice Moon is excellent as is Glausner and I have Leonnie Swann's sheep mystery in the tbr.

I also have a list of German author/titles - http://www.eurocrime.co.uk/books/books_bib_Germany.html though I've not read many of them, other than the ones mentioned above.

Kerrie said...

Thanks for the list Karen, I should have remembered that you would have one over on your site. I have heard about Leonie Swann's THREE BAGS FULL before but hadn't realised it was by a German author.

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