Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Karo”

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #14: Every Man For Himself by Beryl Bainbridge

There was a film on the BBC a few years ago that nearly broke my heart. Beryl Bainbridge, then 70, was convinced she was going to die within the year, given that both her parents had died at 71. Her nephew made a film of those “last” months, following her around London and her hometown, Liverpool. It was beautiful and incredibly sad to see the old lady, wheezing yet still chain-smoking, revisit her past. It turned out she had the dates wrong, and she did not die that year, but that was hardly the point. It’s rare to be allowed a frank view of how our heroes and heroines deal with age and death. Someone not familiar with her writing would probably have chosen not to see behind the weirdness of that story, but having read a fair bit of her work, I saw the same eccentricity that pervades it, and loved her even more. And the way she chatted about the stories that made her, you could tell she was an expert storyteller.
Every Man For Himself, then, was always going to be a wonderful piece of writing. I think it helped that I don’t know much about the historical background of this short novel. Yes, that’s right, people, I have never seen Titanic! I know the facts from the wonderful exhibit in Liverpool’s Maritime Museum, and that’s pretty much it. But I know how Beryl Bainbridge deals with history, and that is not the way the movie did. (Hence some slightly disappointed reviews on goodreads.)

The novel starts in medias res, and for a few pages, I had no idea what was going on. After a while it turns out the story is seen through the eyes of Morgan, the adopted nephew of millionaire J.P. Morgan, who struggles with both his past and his future on his way back to his family in America. Surrounded by his peers, all young, rich and carefree, he is drawn to a mysterious trio of people he first sees while waiting to board the Titanic on her maiden voyage. Scurra, the most mysterious of them all, seems to know everyone on board and catches Morgan unaware by analysing his fears and illusions, heightening Morgan’s depression and unease. All the while, the Titanic steams towards disaster…

The obvious genius of the novel is that everybody knows what will happen in the end, and every little detail gains significance, from snippets of conversations about bad omens to the way the people on the upper deck seem utterly bored with their lives, yet they will be the ones to survive. Bainbridge has a field day playing with the readers’ knowledge of events. She weaves little facts into the fictional story, and everything seems completely believable. I can see how people looking for the big drama would be disappointed up until the last few pages, which managed to choke me quite a bit, but I loved the way Bainbridge stubbornly focussed on Morgan’s point of view. As in any good story, he does grow and learn, and it’s mostly thanks to the mysterious and not altogether likeable Scurra, who plays the role of a Mephistopheles. (See, I’m so proud of making all those links. I spare you my “Master and Margarita” theory.) In conversation with him, Morgan discovers and begins to doubt his morals and convictions, and in the end sees his peers and (adopted) class for what it is – something that stubbornly clings to the splendour of the sinking ship and ultimately lacks the willpower to swim to safety.
Every Man For Himself is a short novel, and a beautifully understated one. There are so many aspects that could have been elaborated. But the Titanic’s journey was a short one, and Beryl Bainbridge manages to cram just as much life, death, questions, doubts, mysteries and tragedies into a short novel. It’s a work of art. The movie, on the other hand, had Celine Dion…

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #13: One Day by David Nicholls

I wanted to hate this book. It seemed to be one of those things that make me want to scream and run away – the whole unlikely romancey scenario of two people writing stupid letters to each other on the same day every year, going on about how they have changed and seen the errors of their ways, before unsurprisingly hooking up in the end. Well, what do you know. When I eventually did read it, and I only did so because I had already read everything else my mum had lying around, it turned out that it wasn’t all that unlikely or schmaltzy. Emma and Dexter don’t actually purposefully write letters to each other every July 15th! The story rather zooms in on whatever they are doing each year. That makes the book altogether more bearable, but I still didn’t like it much.

One Day tells the story of how Emma and Dexter hook up on graduation night and then stay in touch over the next 20 years although their lives continue in completely different directions. It’s humourous, well paced and not too heavy on the clever markers that scream “Looklooklook! Isn’t this just soooo 80s?!”. It’s not too schmaltzy, because the end is a bit of a downer. BUT. As with Starter For Ten, I just couldn’t bring myself to care for either of the characters. As far as I could tell, Dexter was an idiot who had nothing going for him apart from his hotness, and Emma made her life unneccessarily hard and devoid of joy. The only proof we have for the fact that those two are meant for each other are their own words, and even those are a bit unconvincing. I found both of them a bit meh and didn’t feel any chemistry between them, which makes it hard to care about the story. I’m not saying it’s a bad story (although I could see the final twist from miles away), I just didn’t like it. The only exception are the last few pages. Those I loved, strangely enough.

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #12: River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh

This was meant to be a well thought-out, clever review that was going to earn me several publications and eternal fame, but instead can I just say that I am officially in love with Amitav Ghosh, who is now my hero, ideal dinner guest and travel companion of my wildest dreams. I love him. In a good way though, the one which makes me want to be more like him. I’m rambling, aren’t I?

Amitav Ghosh has taken his time to write the second part of the Ibis trilogy, but although I had long forgotten what the first part was all about, it was worth the long wait. Picking up the many strings of the narration that led a colourful cast of characters to weather a storm on the Ibis on her way across the Indian Ocean, Ghosh quickly sends them off into different directions again. While some stay behind in their new home on Mauritius, Neel and Ah Fatt make their way to Canton, in search of Ah Fatt’s father, Bahram Modi, a Parsi opium trader. His story is told against the backdrop of the unfolding Opium Wars between China and Britain, although by the end of the novel, war has not yet broken out. Instead, the reader gets a taste of what life was like in Canton, the only Chinese place that allowed foreign traders to live and work in the 1830s. As in Sea of Poppies before, Ghosh is a master of evocation. He manages to include even the tiniest detail in his descriptions of the time and place of the story.

And what a story it is – dealing with botany, opium, Chinese politics, painting and family histories, all across pretty much every culture that played a part in the history of 19th century Asia. What amazed me was that although I was constantly bombarded with facts I never once got bored of them. Ghosh makes the place come to life, every detail adds another layer to the story, and yet you can never get enough of it.

For me, being the nerd I am, those parts that dealt with language stood out. Again, as in Sea of Poppies, the entire text is one big example for the multi-cultured setting of the story. Like the boatmen on the Ibis, the traders and locals in Canton use a certain form of pidgin to communicate and not get lost in the multitude of languages spoken. This is a joy to read, although it can border on hard work, given that Amitav Ghosh takes his pidgin seriously. Sometimes you have to skim and try to get the gist, which is probably as close to the real situation as you can get. In this novel, Neel acts as the character who tries to get on top of the language confusion and plans to tame it by planning a dictionary. On his webpage, Ghosh goes as far as to publish the framework of this dictionary. What a man. (Really. Hmmm.)
River of Smoke is one of the rare books that promise a lot and deliver even more. It’s a wonderful, exciting story full of amazing characters and heaps of information. It will be a few more years until we can finish the trilogy, and until then, I would very much like to sit in Amitav Ghosh’s study and see that nothing happens to the man while he writes. Or is that too creepy?

Karo’s #CBR 4 Review #11: Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Eagerly awaited, this sequel to 2009’s Wolf Hall starts with a bang. Not literally, but it has one of the very best first pages I have ever come across:

His children are falling from the sky. He watches from horseback, acres of England stretching behind him; they drop, gilt-winged, each with a blood-filled gaze. Grace Cromwell hovers in thin air. She is silent when she takes her prey, silent as she glides to his fist. But the sounds she makes then, the rustle of feathers and the creak, the sigh and riffle of pinion, the small cluck-cluck from her throat, these are sounds of recognition, intimate, daughterly, almost disapproving. Her breat is gore-streaked and flesh clings to her claws. Later, Henry will say, ‘Your girls flew well today.’ The hawk Anne Cromwell bounces on the glove of Rafe Sadler, who rides by the king in easy conversation. They are tired; the sun is declining, and they ride back to Wolf Hall with the reins slack on the necks of their mounts. Tomorrow his wife and two sisters will go out. These dead women, their bones long sunk in London clay, are now transmigrated. Weightless, they glide on the upper currents of the air. They pity no one. They answer to no one. Their lives are simple. When they look down they see nothing but their prey, and the borrowed plumes of the hunters: they see a flittering, flinching universe, a universe filled with their dinner.

Thomas Cromwell, whose rise to power in Henry VIII’s court was described in Wolf Hall, is now an authority, the right hand of the king. Having instrumented the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, he is now dealing with the aftermath: England is shunned by most of Europe, the people don’t accept Anne as their queen, and Katherine, the first wife, refuses to die. And now the king is getting tired of Anne, who won’t deliver on her promise to bear him a son and heir. He has settled on a third wife: innocent, quiet Jane Seymour, and relies on Cromwell to get rid of Anne Boleyn. Cromwell, unshakeable, hard-working and with his mind fixed on business, has to search for new alliances from within the nobility and clergy, while keeping his olf friends close and his enemies even closer. All in a day’s work. But while his career seems solid, he is still reeling from the loss of his wife, daughters and friends.

Hilary Mantel manages to grip the reader within the first few pages. Where Cromwell’s hawks have simple lives, the daily grind at court is nothing like it. Every look, grimace or half sentence has a meaning and far-reaching consequences, all of which need to be assessed and dealt with by Cromwell. The king seems ever more dependent on him, while reminding him that he, and he alone, has the power to destroy lives with a simple nod of the head. While Bring Up The Bodies sweeps the reader along with its beautiful prose, and the modern feel of politics and human tragedy, there are constant reminders of the balance of power that is unique to the times. Henry is the overlord, and absolutely everything must be done to keep him safe and, most importantly, happy. Cromwell is accused by his enemies of wanting to ursurp the monarch, but while he is always trying to secure a comfortable life for himself and the many people he supports, he never loses sight of this goal. History shows us that he, too, must fall victim to the king’s whims, but we refuse to believe someone of his intelligence and humanity could ever fail. Mantel again portrays Cromwell as a modern man with a conscience and vision for a better England. Much of it must be artistic license, but it makes for a great novel.

There are too many interesting thoughts to list here. What struck me in particular was the suffering that women had to go through at the time. Babies are miscarried, children die, husbands rape and betray, witches burn, queens are beheaded for not bearing sons. In order for a historical novel to work, explicit pity and criticism are not allowed, which makes for harrowing reading. But a good novelist can still deal with those thoughts between the lines, and Hilary Mantel is a very good one.

I don’t know if a third novel is planned. Cromwell has yet to fall, and although I dread it, having become quite attached to the man, I would be the first to buy a copy of that book.

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #10: The Vault by Ruth Rendell

I’m a creature of habit, and I do need my quick crime fix. Although her last offerings were a bit disappointing, I picked up The Vault in my Lovely Library, looking forward to lazy mornings on the sofa with my book while the washing up waited patiently in the kitchen. It is a quick read, and the quality of the writing is exactly as you would expect from someone who must be a little old lady now, publishing a book each year. It’s hurried, but then that’s how I was reading it.

Based on the happenings in an earlier Rendell novel, A Sight for Sore Eyes, the novel opens with the discovery of four dead bodies in a coal hole of a nice villa in a nice London neighbourhood. Inspector Wexford, now retired, is spending some time in the capital, meets an old colleague and is asked to advise on the mystery. The problem of bringing in Wexford solved, all is back to normal. He walks around town, talks to people, is still very much in love with his wife, struggles with his feelings towards the daughter who’s not his favourite, and is pretty much the same old policeman we know and love (and got ever so slightly bored with). The case itself is not particularly exciting, as always, it’s the characters that make the book interesting, although they, too, have become set pieces. A bit more narrative exploration would have been good.

And there are the usual things that bug me: The fact that each case or problem is mirrored in the behaviour of Wexford’s children or friends. The increasingly embarrassing use of markers to place the novel in time (Do we really need to know what movies were shown in cinemas when this is supposed to take place? Great research there…). And, this time, the way you can trace how and when the author fell out of love with one of her characters: At first, the inspector on the case is portrayed as a great guy, until suddenly Rendell gets increasingly mean in her descriptions of him. It might be a clever way of showing how someone as used to his old ways as Wexford reacts to a new environment and working with new people. Or it might just be a case of Rendell changing her mind about him in the middle of writing. Overall, Rendell’s novels are still a great deal better than most crime fiction, although if you’re new to her books, do start with the older ones. It’s not necessary to have read A Sight For Sore Eyes in order to understand The Vault, but it’s a much better book.

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #9: The View From Castle Rock by Alice Munro

Alice Munro has single-handedly cured me of my irrational fear of the short story. Her writing is wonderful, her characters relatable and her plots are so poignant that they really only make sense as short fiction. I adore her.

The View From Castle Rock is different in that it’s a family memoir rather than a collection of short stories. It’s also a lot more personal, with Munro not only laying bare her roots but using her own childhood for a book. That doesn’t mean her writing hasn’t always been personal, but it’s different when the first-person narrator is actually, clearly the author.

Tracing her family’s history, Munro writes several episodes starting in 18th-century Scotland and finishing with her ageing and actively taking an interest in her forefathers. While those later episodes are real chronicled memories, the ones in the first part of the book are mostly based on nothing more than a letter or a few diary entries, with the time between actual events being filled with fiction. And since Alice Munro is a brilliant writer, those half-imagined accounts are the most powerful. There is something incredibly touching about the few thoughts we catch of a great-great-grandmother during a sea voyage that meant she would never see her home again, and the eventual, emotionless account of her death. I got genuinely attached to those people, so much that the news of their deaths, which aren’t news at all, really touched a nerve. Also, Munro manages to convey her thoughts on what life must have been like for women. She doesn’t elaborate, but the few lines we do get are immensely powerful. Births, hungry infants, lost husbands, dead children are merely chronicled or touched upon in half-sentences, but those have a life of their own.

For me, the first part of the book had a much stronger pull than the latter one. Maybe I just prefer the unknown to the more recent and verifiable. Maybe I just prefer my fiction expressly fiction-y. Or maybe I just got out of the groove when I had to put the book down once too often. It’s still a great book, and I can’t stress enough how much I adore Alice Munro. (I think I’ve made myself quite clear there…)

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #8: Black Jesus by Simone Felice

I reviewed this book for, but it’s in German, and although I’m sure that counts, I’ll just quickly say a few words about it here.

Simone Felice may be a lot of people’s musical hero, and probably quite rightly so, but boy, can he NOT write a novel. Black Jesus is the man’s third published book, after some shorter fiction, and it’s still only 200 pages long. That’s just not enough space to deal with all the things Felice set out to deal with.

Black Jesus is Lionel White, a young soldier returning from Iraq. He’s blind and drugged and suffering from what he saw in the war, and now he has to move back in with his mum. She loves her boy but can’t get through to him. On the other side of the country, a stripper called Gloria (or maybe not) runs away from the boyfriend who possibly broke her leg after he learned that she had auditioned for a ballet company. Well, technically she doesn’t run, but drives a moped, which I’m sure is much easier to do with a BROKEN LEG. She drives across the whole of America, ponders life and the landscape a bit, then meets Black Jesus, and the two of them solve their crises together. Also, there’s a lot more pondering, and somehow it’s a given that America is on its last leg and everything is DOOMED. That may well be, only there is no lyrical quality to it at all. There are hardly any adjectives other than “good” and “bad” (yes, there is a bad Nazi. Not just a Nazi, a BAD one) and “lonely”. The only stylistic means we are being bombarded with are endless enumerations. They’re meant to be deep, but they’re just annoying. And as for the meeting of kindred lost souls? They kidnap an old lady from her nursing home and then lie down in the grass together (minus the old lady). That’s it.

There is a very small chance all this might have been due to the piss poor translation, but I have to cut the translator some slack. There had to be a bad text first.

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #7: Deutschlandalbum by Axel Hacke

This book landed on my doorstep completely unannounced, and made me realise that I had missed World Book Night. And although I would probably not have picked this for myself, I read it and liked it. Sometimes you really have to be nudged into the right direction.

I know Axel Hacke from his hugely popular collections of misheard song lyrics, but for Deutschlandalbum, he attempted something a bit more serious: to create a collage of all things German, of ordinary people’s stories, poems, photographs and just the right amount of ridicule for what we all take to be “typically German” (Yes, this means over-the-top recycling). Given that this is a more than ambitious project, he manages well, with more sadness than expected, and quite a few bits of razor-sharp insight. Starting from his own experience as the son of a withdrawn WWII veteran (and I suppose this has a complete different connotation for the intended German audience), he describes what most people feel for their country, which is more shame than pride, and more private comfort than big patriotism. Germans, he notes, are prone to talking themselves and their country down, which is no wonder after having caused (again, as a country, but in the case of Hacke’s own father and his generation, personally as well) so much pain and devastation in the past. It’s popular to regard all things German with suspicion, while still being quite happy with your own circumstances. I have always seen it that way – while I love my hometown, I feel I have no right to speak for the whole country, and although I’m doing my best to raise my children as Germans, I wouldn’t dream of feeling even the tiniest bit of national pride. It’s a strange situation, but it’s hardwired into the brains of most Germans. Later on in the book, Hacke uses the acute sense of guilt his father’s generation felt after the war to explain the famed German sense of order: Terrified of what they had done to others, and being forced to rebuild their country after their own acts of destruction, the survivors of WWII clung to the sense of order as their only means of controlling the fear they all felt. Only systematic ordering would stop them from feeling helpless and afraid of what they were capable of. There, in just a few pages, Hacke sums up an entire nation’s psyche.

There’s more to Germany than the war, and even the Berlin wall. In Deutschlandalbum, we meet the winners and losers of the recent past. There’s the high-flying banker who lost it all and can’t afford to pay for his lunch, the divorced woman who ended up in a hostel, the poor drunk guy who eventually disappears, unnoticed by his drinking pals. But there’s also the shrewd Saxon entrepreneur who manages to adapt to the ever-changing markets, and the butcher who believes in his vision of ethically sourced meat for everyone. Although most of the people Axel Hacke meets have heartbreakingly sad stories to tell, most of them retain a sense of pride and resilience. For me, it’s the stories of East Germans that move me most, because they are familiar. But even the tramps and the drunks are portrayed as just as worthy, and Hacke shows his incredible talent for showing a person’s humanity. And he’s funny, of course. There is a chapter about the German man and the sea, which is absolutely hysterical and probably applies to all men everywhere. And the recycling of course, which, to be fair, hardly needs the dramatisation.

Overall, Hacke achieves what he set out to do: To tell the stories that make up a country. I don’t feel any closer to patriotism, but I’m once again reminded that everybody has a story to tell, and there is never just black and white and clear characterisation.

(Enough with the German books now. I’ll read something in English next.)

Karo’s #CBR4 Review #6: Am Leben by Christoph Kuhn

The older I get, the more I long for the past. It’s a fact that has been observed and described in literature, and some of my favourite books deal exactly with this kind of longing. It’s this fact that again and again drives me to pick up books about displacement, growing up or family histories. For me the past, whether my own or the one behind photographs of derelict buildings, is endlessly fascinating and comforting. It can not be changed and is therefore in my control. At the same time it’s unattainable, so the joy is always mixed with regret and just enough sadness to keep it interesting. Christoph Kuhn knows this, and he has written about it. Being a friend of my family, he himself is a part of my past, and I have fond memories of his unbelievable stories that I enjoyed as a child, and discussions about writing when I was thankful for someone who took my teenage attemps seriously. It took him a long time to finish this, his first novel, and I can see how he must have felt he needed that time to come to terms with the time he is describing.

Tilman, the middle son of a Christian family in 1960s Dresden, lives in a fictional world of Indians and cowboys, set in his grandparents’ large garden. Together with his older brother, he has dreamed up a world of adventure, moral codes and the first hints of love, courtesy of his parents’ cleaning help Felizitas. A weak boy, he is unhappy in school and lives for the evenings, weekends and summer holidays. Gradually though, the real world is starting to intrude, as his parents’ faith and political views are a constant risk in a society that is becoming more and more oppressive.

This is the world of my childhood, although I was born some 30 years after the protagonist. It has been a long journey for me to come to terms with my role as a child of the latter stages of the GDR. I was 7 when the Berlin wall came down, and remember only bits of what life was like in the socialist East, so I have never felt that I had anything to say about it. Up until now I have refused to read any of the heaps of recent German books that deal with the time, because it’s become a veritable hype (As a rule, I stay away from any hype) and is in danger of turning a whole 40 years of history into fiction. Kuhn’s book is not the ambitious, heavy tome of historical treatment that wins literary awards and seems to be intentionally difficult to read. It’s one boy’s story in which many people will see their own. There are enough cultural markers to occasionally give it the impression of a mere collection of GDR subjects, but Kuhn manages not to overdo it. Even for me, the brand names, games and school lessons bring back memories. The boys’ Wild West games are based on the works of Karl May, a German author virtually unknown outside his own country, who wrote extensively about exotic places he had never visited. He was one of the most popular authors in the GDR, and is still celebrated in East Germany today. Me and my brother played Indians every summer, climbing trees, building teepees in the forest and stalking elusive deer. It’s a very GDR thing, and one of my plans for CBR4 is to re-read Karl May 20 years on (We’ll see how that goes.)

For the adults, life is about political oppression, clandestine Western radio reception, a wall being built overnight, uncles being imprisoned and the constant fear of “them” knocking on the door to take you away. This is the side of GDR life that I was spared, so I can not pretend to speak from experience. I know my family and their friends had to live with those threats, some escaping the country, some turning out to be Stasi spies. It’s something we don’t often talk about at home but maybe should. Definitely should.

Tilman slowly notices these things and is increasingly forced to take a stand. This leads to him having discussions with his brother and friends about subjects you wouldn’t expect from children, such as their stand on faith and Christianity in a society that openly opposes religion. Teachers are quoted ridiculing God, and although I’m a fierce atheist, it feels wrong. What is portrayed here is the widening chasm between state education and family values, with Tilman’s mother at one point openly mourning the loss of innocence of her boys. This must have been a big problem for a lot of parents in the GDR, and I’m glad my parents were spared most of it with me and my brother. In the end, Tilman’s childhood world falls apart with Felizitas finding a steady boyfriend, his brother outgrowing the Wild West games and the trees in the garden being cut down. This causes Tilman the most heartbreak, and reminded me of the elm trees in the Virgin Suicides. There’s something very emotional and painful about the trees being cut, and I still mourn the trees of my childhood. Again, Christoph Kuhn knows this. I should really drop him a line.

I realise that it’s impossible for most of you guys to read this book, and it wouldn’t be as emotionally charged as it is for me, but it’s a great little book. Maybe someday it will find an English-speaking publisher and translator. Maybe one of you can be that person. You never know. (The paperback version of the book is now called “Die hinteren Gründe”, published by Wartburg Verlag. Just in case anybody is interested.)

Karo’s #CBR4 review #5: Der Metzger holt den Teufel by Thomas Raab

I’m not sure I can call myself a fan of Austrian literature after having read only one Austrian author, but ask me to recommend a German language novel, and I would bully you into reading Wolf Haas. Now, much to my whole family’s delight, Austria has a new literary darling. A writer, pianist and singer, Thomas Raab is a busy person who’s just released his fifth novel featuring Metzger (known as “der Metzger” in that lovely Austrian way of calling even your best friends by their last names, complete with article. It’s one of the many, many things that are near impossible to translate, which means it should be a while until any of you people will be able to actually read those books. Unless you learn German and go live in Austria, of course.) But I digress. Willibald Adrian Metzger, middle-aged and unhurried, is a restorer in Vienna, and as such not exactly predestined for a life as a criminal investigator. His best friend happens to be a policeman, though, and this is how it makes total sense that Willibald gets to deal with the odd murderer.

Der Metzger holt den Teufel starts innocently enough with Metzger falling victim to a pickpocketing youth, but soon things spiral out of control, people get chased, murdered and humiliated, and the novel takes a very sombre turn. It’s the fourth novel in the series, but it doesn’t take long to catch up on the various backstories. What makes this novel (and presumably the other four) special is Raab’s use of language. Where Wolf Haas, the other Austrian, uses his protagonists muddled stream of consciousness to exhilarate the reader, Raab delivers sentences that are filed and polished to absolute perfection. They are clever and funny, use all kinds of stylistic devices, and make you want to cross-stitch them to hang above your bed. As a result, reading a Metzger novel takes a while. You simply cannot rush through, because Raab is especially fond of using clever synonyms for everyday words, turning the simplest descriptions into cryptic clues. Two teenagers romancing on a park bench under a tree inspire a sentence that uses phrases like seating-accomodation and orbital as if it was the only way to describe the scene. It’s never pretentious though, because Metzger is a loveable character. He’s that relic of a less hurried time that makes for a good investigator (think Wallander or Adamsberg), and the language adds to this slowing of pace. At the same time, Raab is a sharp observer of social problems and modern life, as well as an artist. Der Metzger holt den Teufel is more than just another crime novel, and I can’t wait to devour the other four – at a reasonable pace, of course.

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