6 September 2011

German crime fiction: Swann, Wagner, et al

There is no doubt that German readers like their crime fiction. I became aware of that when travelling in Germany a few years back. I was investigating a book store looking for a title in English and came across an enormous section of crime fiction translated from English into German. There were lots of familiar authors.

I had been fascinated a year or two earlier, when Craig Russell published BROTHER GRIMM to learn that it had been simultaneously released in English and German.
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.
My rating: 4.6

Among my reviews on this blog I have only two authors that I recognise as German.

Leonie Swann seems a very unlikely name for a German author.
I rated THREE BAGS FULL at 4.3
First published in 2005, English translation from German by Anthea Bell 2006, published Random House 2006, 351 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-60994-4

The premise of THREE BAGS FULL is simple. Glenkill shepherd George Glenn is found dead in the paddock, murdered, a heavy spade stuck through his middle. So we have a murder mystery, with an investigation by the sheep. A cozy, full of quirky humour.

The other author is Jan Costin Wagner whose ICE MOON I rated at 4.6.
ICE MOON is set in Finland. First published in Germany with the title EISMOND, 2003
Translated from German into English by John Brownjohn 2006

Have you ever wished you could turn back the clock, so that recent events have never happened?
Then you, I, the detective in this novel, and the murderer, all have something in common.

Detective Kimmo Joentaa of the Turku CID in Finland was holding his wife Sanna's hand when she went to sleep for the last time. For days and nights he had been at her bedside, and he noted the time of her death. It left him with a deep stabbing pain that he thought would never leave him.

Jan Costin Wagner (Langen, 1972 - ) is a comparatively young German writer. His first novel, "Nachtfahrt" (Night Trip) was published to much acclaim in 2002 and won the Marlowe Prize for Best Crime Novel.
ICE MOON has been translated into thirteen languages. Its French edition was was nominated for the Prix Coeur Noir and its American edition for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.


Kiwicraig said...

Similarly to you Kerrie, I've noticed that the Germans have a huge appetite for crime fiction. Germany is a much, much bigger market than the UK, in terms of readers and sales - but here in NZ (and I imagine in Australia too), we tend to publicise authors who do well in the UK moreso than authors who do well in other non-English language countries. Colonial ties and all that, I guess.

When I was doing a large feature on Swedish crime back in early 2009, I discovered a lot more about crime fiction in Germany, and how some authors became very popular in Germany before they were really noticed in the US/UK - such as Stieg Larsson, and Linwood Barclay. Of course from a NZ perspective, I've since thought that since Paul Cleave does so very well in Germany, that might be a good sign for his eventual bestseller status in the US/UK - as Germany can sometimes be a bit of the 'canary in the coal mine' when it comes to spotting crime writers on the rise.

In terms of authors translated from German, like you, I haven't read many - in my case Andrea Maria Schenkel and Bernhard Schlink - the latter is famous for THE READER, but he's actually written several crime novels as well.

Maxine Clarke said...

I've found the German crime fiction I've read a little strange in a sort of similar way that I can't quite put my finger on. Read Anna Maria Schenkel and see what I mean (her novels are very short). One German author/book I can recommend if you like the "dark journey into the soul" kind of novel is The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr. A thriller author who is massively popular there but whom I cannot get on with is Sebastian Fitzek (Therapy and a new one whose title I forget but I have read it). Reality shifts and claustrophobia. Another one I can recommend is Juli Zeh's Dark Matter which plays with the concepts of twins and doubles, with a scientific theme. As you mention, Jan Costin Wagner writes haunting books but he sets them in Finland so I never know what country to count him in! (He shares a translator with Andrea Maria Schenkel).

Maxine Clarke said...

Splinter is the Fitzek title I forgot earlier.

Kerrie said...

I have found BUNKER by Schenkel on Kindle so I'll give that a try Maxine

Dorte H said...

On the one hand I think it is embarrassing that I have only read one German crime novel, Jan costin Wagner´s Ice Moon, but I read some German literature when I studied German for a short period, and I found that even stranger than Maxine finds their crime fiction.

Unknown said...

Hi,sorry to leave an unrelated comment, but I couldn’t find any contact info for you. I’m wondering if you’d be interested in a guest post. Please drop me an e-mail. Thanks!

Kerrie said...

Unknown - please use the kontactr me link to leave a request.


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