28 March 2008

THUMBPRINT, Friedrich Glauser

THUMBPRINT, Friedrich Glauser, ISBN 1-904738-00-1, 199pp

Originally published in 1936 (Swiss German??), translated in to German in 1995, first published in English in 2004 by Bitter Lemon Press.

Sergeant Studer has been asked to arrest Erwin Schlumpf on suspicion of having murdered his fiance’s father. The body of Wendelin Witschi, merchant and travelling salesman from Gerzenstein, has been found in the forest, shot in the head behind the ear. For reasons really unknown to himself, having delivered the prisoner to Thun Castle only an hour so previously, Studer returns to find the young man hanging by the neck from a leather belt tied around the window bars. He is in time to save Schlumpf’s life. The case of murder appears to be an open and shut one, but to Studer, an aging sergeant and unlikely detective, things don’t seem right, and of course they are not. Studer gets himself assigned to the case by almost blackmailing the magistrate who originally thought the facts clearly showed Schlumpf’s guilt. This is a very satisfying whodunit, with lots of the elements of the more modern whydunnits.

Bitter Lemon Press tells us that Glauser is often referred to as the Swiss Simenon. What strikes you as you read it is how well it has stood the test of time. It is set in the early 1930s but none of those “older novel” characteristics that you find in many Golden age English crime novels are there. That of course may be because it has been translated into English only recently, and so it is closer to modern idioms.

From Bitter Lemon Press: http://www.bitterlemonpress.com/authors/friedrich-glauser.asp
Friedrich Glauser was born in Vienna in 1896. Often referred to as the Swiss Simenon, he died aged forty-two a few days before he was due to be married. Diagnosed a schizophrenic, addicted to morphine and opium, he spent much of his life in psychiatric wards, insane asylums and, when he was arrested for forging prescriptions in prison. He also spent two years with the Foreign Legion in North Africa, after which he worked as a coal-miner and a hospital orderly. In 1939, a year after Glauser’s death, the film of 'Thumbprint', the first Sergeant Studer mystery, was greeted with critical acclaim and commercial success. Studer became more famous than his creator, the mark of true success for a fictional detective.

My rating: 4.6

1 comment:

Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm glad you liked Thumbprint; you know I'm a big Glauser fan.

I liked your comment about Glauser standing the test of time and the observation that this may be due in part to the translation's freshness. But Glauser was also apparently considered a major Swiss writer, and not "just" a crime writer. Perhaps he just knew how to write a story that was not bound to its time.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"


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