In Matto's Realm: A Sergeant Studer Mystery

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“Despairing plot about the reality of madness and life, leavened with strong doses of bittersweet irony. The idiosyncratic investigation and its laconic detective haven’t aged one iota.”—Guardian

A child-murderer escapes from a Swiss insane asylum. The stakes get higher when Detective Sergeant Studer discovers the director’s body, neck broken, in the boiler room of the madhouse. The intuitive Studer is drawn into the workings of an institution that darkly mirrors the world ...

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“Despairing plot about the reality of madness and life, leavened with strong doses of bittersweet irony. The idiosyncratic investigation and its laconic detective haven’t aged one iota.”—Guardian

A child-murderer escapes from a Swiss insane asylum. The stakes get higher when Detective Sergeant Studer discovers the director’s body, neck broken, in the boiler room of the madhouse. The intuitive Studer is drawn into the workings of an institution that darkly mirrors the world outside. Even he cannot escape the pull of the no man’s land between reason and madness where Matto, the spirit of insanity, reigns.

Addicted to morphine, Friedrich Glauser spent much of his life in psychiatric wards and prison. He began writing mystery novels while an asylum inmate in 1935.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
First published in 1936, this golden age gem contains echoes of Durenmatt, Fritz Lang's film M and Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. Just as Mann's Berghof Sanatorium mirrored the schadenfreude of the world outside, so the Swiss madhouse in Glauser's psychologically wrenching Sergeant Studer novel, the second to be translated into English (after 2004's Thumbprint), darkly illuminates the anguish and disorientation of Germany between the wars. When Peter Pieterlen, a child murderer, escapes from the Randlingen Psychiatric Clinic in Bern, Dr. Ernst Laduner asks Det. Sgt. Jakob Studer to investigate. Studer soon discovers the body of Randlingen's director in the clinic's boiler room, his neck broken. Despite the clinic doctors' claim that Pieterlen killed the man, Studer has doubts that leave him wondering if someone is using pseudopsychological theories and pretenses to commit murder. Both a compelling mystery and an illuminating, finely wrought mainstream novel, this classic will make it clear to American readers why the German-language prize for detective fiction is named after Glauser (1896-1938). (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It is the 1930s, near Bern, Switzerland, and Detective Sergeant Studer is called to a psychiatric asylum to investigate the disappearance of the director and one of the patients, a murderer. The director turns up murdered, three others die, and nothing is very clear. "Contact with people who are mentally ill is contagious," says a doctor, and Studer begins to wonder about himself. The Italian word matto means the spirit of madness, but it is increasingly unclear which is real, inside or outside the asylum. As in Georges Simenon's crime novels, Glauser examines mind more than action, the appearance that may not be reality. The German author, who died at age 42 in Switzerland, spent much time in psychiatric institutions yet clearly appreciated the irony of the coming chaos outside their walls. Published serially in 1936 but only now translated into English, this novel belongs in academic and larger public library collections. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The first English translation of a widely respected crime novel originally published as a serial in 1936. Swiss Detective Sergeant Jakob Studer, a has-been in the Bern police establishment, receives his latest assignment with mixed feelings. Though he's happy to be doing anything of an investigative nature, he's not so happy that he'll be doing it at Randlingen, an insane asylum. But he's dispatched there by his chief in response to a request from acting clinic director Dr. Ernst Laduner. Ulrich Borstli, Laduner's boss, has suddenly disappeared, and an inmate is also missing. It doesn't take long for the Randlingen community-pop. 800, including staff-to turn Studer's preconceptions upside down. He finds sanity where he least expected it and a lack of emotional stability where it's most needed. Laduner himself turns out to be charismatic and inscrutable, both a help and a hindrance to Studer's investigation. Matto means crazy in Italian, Studer reflects, and as he tries to solve the mystery of the Randlingen murders, he wonders how well he knows himself. "We're all of us murderers," Dr. Luduner warns darkly. Complex characters, a deft puzzle and an authoritative sense of place compensate for a pace slower than most modern readers are used to. It's worth noting that Glauser, a diagnosed schizophrenic, wrote most of his novel while institutionalized.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781904738060
  • Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press, Ltd
  • Publication date: 1/1/2006
  • Series: Sergeant Studer Series, #2
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 334
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mike Mitchell is a well-known translator of German works and the winner of a number of literary prizes. He has translated the other Studer novels as well. Mike Mitchell has translated some thirty books and won the Schlegel-Tieck German translation prize.
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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    dark period piece police procedural

    In the late 1920s in Bern, Dr. Ernst Laduner specifically asks to see Detective Sergeant Jakob Studer as they met in Vienna though the cop does not remember the psychiatrist. Laduner informs Studer that a patient Peter Pieterlen, a child murderer, escaped from the Randlingen Psychiatric Clinic Studer concludes the psychiatrist is performing a classic CYA especially since another patient director Ulrich Borstli vanished. Studer questions those on duty when Borstli allegedly disappeared and Pieterlen escaped from the asylum. As he continues his investigation in the boiler room, he discovers the murdered corpse of Borstli, whose neck is broken. While his superior and the psychiatrist claim that the murdering maniac Pieterlen killed Borstli before fleeing the crime scene, Studer thinks otherwise. The psychological theories brought forth to accuse the missing patient as the killer makes him wonder if someone is hiding the homicide behind psychological theory that sounds more like mumbo jumbo. --- IN MATTO¿S REALM is a dark period piece police procedural that grips the audience from the moment Studer enters the clinic and never lets go as the sleuth realizes those inside reflect those outside. The strong story line is cast-driven as the audience obtains a deep look at a 1920s German mental asylum accompanied by the prevalent psychological theories of the day. The who-done-it is shrewdly developed so that readers receive a fine detective story used to provide a look at a psychiatric clinic by an insider as author Friedrich Glauser spent time in psychiatric wards where he began his writing career. --- Harriet Klausner

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